Introduction: Dealing with Difficult Employees and Managing Difficult People

Learning how to deal with difficult employees is one of the most unexciting and dreaded parts of any job. Whether you’re a coordinator, shift manager, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, managing difficult employees and handling difficult people is never a part of the job that one looks forward to.

However, dealing with difficult situations and handling difficult employees needs to be done in the correct fashion to avoid problems that can lead to serious crises for a business down the road.

If you simply choose to avoid dealing with difficult employees or managing difficult people, the problem won’t go away, but rather will expand into a situation that will be much harder to deal with. So, what is the best way for dealing with a difficult employee?

In this brief article, AdvisoryHQ will look at how to deal with difficult employees. We’ll begin by explaining who needs to learn the art of managing difficult employees. Next, we look at the importance of developing a profound sense of patience when dealing with a difficult situation or handling difficult employees.

Once you have developed a sense of patience to analyze the situation, we will look at why you need to be consistent when dealing with a difficult employee. Even though every job environment is different, there are different types of difficult employees, and we will examine these types of difficult employees and how you can best deal with each one.

Lastly, we look at the necessity of setting strict but understandable consequences when handling difficult people.

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Who Needs to Learn How to Deal with Difficult Employees?

If you own your own business, one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make is who to hire to help you out. After putting so much of your time and energy and money into starting up a business vision, you obviously will want to find people who share your passion and will be willing to go the extra mile to give you quality results for your customers and clients.

dealing with difficult employees

Managing Difficult People

Unfortunately, not all people you hire will turn out to be the best employees. When people are desperate for a job, they can easily make all sorts of promises regarding their work ethic and dedication to the job. After a few months on the job, however, you may find that you are dealing with difficult situations caused by that employee on almost a daily basis.

If you are the main owner of a small business, you obviously will be the person at the top of the list for dealing with difficult employees and managing difficult people. However, even if you love your business and want to see it succeed, you simply can’t be there all the time. One of the best characteristics of a good business owner is learning how to delegate responsibilities.

Finding trusted employees that you can name as managers will help you find a balance between the stress of running you own business and still being able to dedicate time to your family and other things you enjoy doing.

Among other responsibilities, a quality manager should be good at managing difficult employees and handling difficult people. This can be difficult because many difficult employees might question the authority of a shift manager or coordinator that you put in place.

Lastly, handling difficult people and dealing with difficult situations are skills that all of your employees should learn, even if they don’t have any sort of managerial position or authority within the business. Many times, small problems can balloon into serious crises when not addressed from the outset.

By training all of your employees on handling difficult people and dealing with difficult situations you might be able to stop problems before they make it to your desk or ears.

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The Importance of Patience When Managing Difficult Employees or Handling Difficult People

Handling difficult employees who seem to cause unnecessary problems on a daily basis can be exasperating, especially for a business owner or manager who is trying to juggle a thousand responsibilities all at once just to keep the business afloat.

When dealing with difficult employees or managing difficult people, the first reaction might be to lash out or to simply fire the employee in question. This reaction, however, could lead to more serious confrontations down the road. If you simply choose to fire any and all difficult employees, you might very well find that you don’t have any employees left on your roster.

The most important quality to develop when learning how to deal with difficult employees is patience. According to Forbes magazine, “Often, when an employee is difficult we stop paying attention to what’s actually going on.

We’re irritated, it seems hopeless, and we’ve already decided what we think about the employee—so we just turn our attention to other things, out of a combination of avoidance and self-protection. But the best managers get very attentive when someone’s not doing well. 

They know their best shot at improving the situation lies in having the clearest possible understanding of the situation—including knowing the tough employee’s point of view.”

Developing patience when managing difficult employees or handling difficult people can actually help you find ways to solve real problems. Perhaps your difficult employees that seem to be complaining all the time are actually expressing a real, tangible problem with how your business is set up or operating.

The complaints of these employees might actually be pointing to an underlying problem that you as owner or manager need to address.

Furthermore, dealing with difficult employees and managing difficult people with patience and serenity is by far the best way to overcome the situation. While some difficult employees might act the way they do as a general part of their personality, others might simply be having a bad day or week.

By listening to their complaints and problems, you might be offering these difficult employees a chance to get something off their chest. If they feel like you care enough to listen to their grievances, chances are that they will then feel motivated to offer you quality work.

Be Consistent When Dealing with a Difficult Employee

Another of the most important qualities for an owner or manager to have when dealing with a difficult employee is consistency. If you say that you do not approve of certain behaviors or actions, you need to always disapprove of these actions. Difficult employees often will look for ways to get around a problem instead of addressing it directly.

This means that you need to be in clear communication with your managerial staff so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to dealing with difficult employees and managing difficult people. Each person with a position of leadership and authority in your business needs to have the same standards when it comes to dealing with a difficult employee.

This will let all of your employees know that the same standards apply no matter who is in charge on a given work day.

Handling difficult employees and their problems with consistency and constancy will also help clear up issues of miscommunication. Often, employees may genuinely get confused if there aren’t clear guidelines for behavior and job tasks.

For example, let’s say one employee of yours regularly comes into work in jeans and a T-shirt. You try to explain to him or her the dress code, which doesn’t allow for that type of attire. However, when your assistant manager is on duty, she never corrects that employee for wearing jeans. Having clear standards and consistency is a necessity when managing difficult employees and handling difficult people.

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Different Types of Difficult Employees

When it comes to dealing with difficult employees or managing difficult people, there is no textbook example of what to expect. Each person is unique, and difficult employees all bring their particular personalities to the job. Nonetheless, there are certain types of difficult employees that can be identified. Below we look at three different types of difficult employees.

The Victim:

Employees who always come to you complaining of some sort of problem that is unfairly being laid on their shoulders is a prime example of “the victim.” According to, “The victim is the least accountable person in the office. Things always seem to happen ‘to’ a victim.”

While it is important to listen to his or her problems and complaints, when managing difficult employees who always claim to be a victim, it is important to be clear about their tasks and responsibilities and demand that they be accountable to those tasks.

The Einstein:

While everyone wants employees who are smart and capable, managing difficult employees who want to appear to know more than everyone else on the team can be difficult.

When dealing with difficult employees or managing difficult people who are “know-it-alls,” ask them to reflect on how their air of superiority is affecting other, perhaps less capable employees. Often, these difficult employees can draw their own conclusions and correct certain behaviors. 

The Snake:

One of the worst parts of managing difficult employees or handling difficult people is when they are back-biters or tattle tales. These types of difficult employees are always trying to get their fellow employees in trouble.

To deal with a “snake,” you need to be firm in letting him or her know to mind their own business and concentrate on the quality of their work, first and foremost.

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Learn to Set Consequences when Handling Difficult Employees or Dealing with Difficult Situations

If you have shown patience, set clear and consistent standards, genuinely listened to your employee’s complaints and grievances, but those difficult employees still cause problems, you need to be resolved to let those employees that there will be consequences.

When dealing with difficult employees or managing difficult people, there can be both positive and negative consequences. Let your difficult employees know that if they don’t change their behavior, they might very well have to be let go.

If a formerly quality employee is giving you problems, however, you might consider offering him or her a reward if they can resolve their issues and return to their former conduct. Offering a raise or more weekends off might be enough stimulus for handling difficult employees.

Managing Difficult People

Consequences when Handling Difficult Employees

Almost everyone responds better to rewards than punishments, so when managing difficult employees or handling difficult people, consider offering rewards as a way to get your employees to fix their own problematic behaviors.

According to The Balance, it is important to “give the other person a chance to develop a solution to the problem. They are more likely to ‘own’ the solution if they are at least partially responsible for developing it.”

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Conclusion—The Best Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Employees and Managing Difficult People

Running and managing your own business is an exciting yet also challenging endeavor. If you find quality employees that share your vision and passion, chances are that your business will run well.

If, however, you spend large amounts of time dealing with a difficult employee, both you and your business will likely suffer.

Dealing with difficult employees and managing difficult people is an art that all business owners and managers need to learn.

By learning how to develop patience, listen to your employees, set clear standards, and set forth both positive and negative consequences for certain behaviors, dealing with difficult situations and handling difficult employees will become just another part of your daily job tasks.

Learning to identify the types of difficult employees is also an important aspect of running a successful business.  Handling difficult people successfully means that you need to understand where they’re coming from and why they act the way they do. Once you have done that, you should find that your business will run much more smoothly.

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