Dealing with Difficult Employees: Setting Best Practices to Navigate Conflict & Misconduct

dealing with workplace conflict

Have you recently found yourself trying to find the best way to deal with an underachieving employee or one that simply isn’t following set standards and creating conflict? Difficult employees can be frustrating to handle, especially if their negative attitude has begun to spread and affect other members of the team. Knowing how to swiftly, fairly, and efficiently deal with problem employees is a staple of the HR field; with the right team on your side, you can learn how to navigate tricky situations without putting anyone at risk.

At Pivot HR, we’re proud to partner with businesses and organizations throughout Vancouver, as well as across Canada to help you overcome challenging human resource issues and to build a foundation that sets you up for success in the future. Below, we’ll cover six key tips for dealing with difficult employees. Read on to learn more!

What Creates Difficult Employees?

Truth be told, there’s no one reason you’ll find yourself facing an employee that presents difficulties. The individual may be experiencing a traumatic time in their personal life, may be struggling to perform the core functions of their job due to insufficient training, or may even have cultural differences you’re unaware of. While it can be easy to jump to conclusions and try to force the problem to resolve itself quickly, it’s important to realize that it will take time to handle these kinds of issues properly, and both sides need to work together to achieve the optimal resolution.

The best steps to handle difficult employees include:

1. Listen

As with any form of conflict resolution, one of the most important aspects is to take the time to sit down and listen to your employee by opening up an honest and transparent dialogue. You may find that you’re able to resolve the issue simply by communicating better, or you might be able to determine that you’ll need to take further steps to address the problem more directly.

2. Clear and Direct Behavioural Feedback

We can’t fix what we don’t know, and as a management or leadership team, it’s important to guide your employees towards better behaviours, especially if they’re lacking in certain areas. Clear and direct feedback that focuses on specific behaviours, not personal attributes goes a long way and can be very constructive. Focus on providing feedback that identifies what they’re doing wrong, and what they need to be doing instead to succeed and see if that helps guide them in the right direction.

3. Document

One of the most important things any employer needs to do when dealing with employee matters, negative or positive, is to document. Keep clear, detailed records of every communication with the individual in question, from performance reviews, warnings, formal conversations and more. Be sure to clearly outline the issues at hand, how they were brought up with the employee, and what your plan is going forward. Doing so can save you an immense amount of hassle should things escalate, and/or on a positive note, can serve as a great reference of improvement and personal growth should the employee begin to better align themselves with your standards.

4. Be Consistent

If you’re focusing on one employee that’s having a specific issue (timeliness, for example), but ignore the same problems when they present with others, you’re creating a dangerous imbalance that won’t serve anyone in the long run. Be prepared to hold everyone to the same standard; your employees will be far more likely to rise to the occasion.

5. Discuss Consequences

If you’ve had an open conversation about areas of improvement and you still see no signs of change, it may be time to have a conversation about potential consequences, all of which should be previously outlined in your workplace policies to ensure everything is above board. Clearly and calmly communicate that continued non-compliance may result in negative repercussions, including termination should things progress to that point.

6. Follow Through

Terminating an employee is never an enjoyable experience, and it can be particularly difficult if you have a positive personal relationship with them otherwise. With that being said, as a management and leadership team, you need to be prepared to follow through on your expectations and consequences as previously communicated. If you’ve earnestly followed your HR policies with regards to conflict, communication, and consequences, sometimes you will find yourself in the position where there simply isn’t another alternative and you need to let someone go. Should this be the case, be sure to have all relevant managers in agreement and move forward carefully to respect the employee’s dignity and to protect yourself from any accusations of wrongful dismissal.

Need HR Assistance?

Pivot HR is here to help! Our team of experts will guide you through any and all HR-related questions including conflict, toxic workplaces, team audits, coaching and leadership training and more. Contact us today to learn more!

What Our Clients say about us

Read more testimonials