Happy Employees, Happy Workplace
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone we worked with was enthusiastic and motivated with personalities well suited for our business environment? Gosh I always dreamed that my employees were satisfied and happy to be doing the work I hired them to do. Unfortunately that world does not exist and for good reason … we would quickly be less interested because true leaders seek stimulating, interesting and diverse challenges to fill their days and would not be satisfied with less. How we deal with the difficult people in our lives helps define the type of person we are but we cannot let them change who we are.
We would not be human if we did not make mistakes and that includes not hiring the right person for the job. Some people misrepresent their job skills, training and yes, personality, to perform to your company’s standards. It is up to management to recognize that at all times we have the best person doing the jobs we need to successfully manage our businesses. Your team needs to function effectively across all departments to meet the demands of today’s business environment. Difficult employees are a drain on the resources of any business and must be dealt with swiftly and effectively to limit their effect in terms of productivity, efficiency, turnover and, worst case scenario, customer loss.
We have to remember that other employees are watching us to see how we handle those amongst us that present these difficult challenges. And, if we do not handle them effectively, you can expect even more challenges from within. We all want to work in an environment conducive to growth and productivity and to not deal with, or worse ignore, the difficult people in your company will set into motion a pattern that may have more serious consequences down the road. In effect ignoring it may be the encouragement that person needs to continue down a path that may eventually pick up others to engage in the same behavior pattern. One very important thing to consider when you have an employee that presents difficulty working with others or is just plain difficult to be around is that as hard as it is for you it is much more so for your other employees.
If you do not commit to deal with a difficult employee you will find yourself with frustrated and stressed-out coworkers that will eventually present declining commitment to their work and the morale of your entire company will be greatly impacted. That's why it's so important to understand what motivates our difficult employees. If they have the skills for the job they are doing for you and worth keeping around for that you have to find a productive way to effectively manage them for the benefit of not only your company but also all your employees.
Stop Rewarding Bad Behavior
As employers and managers we have to stop rewarding the behavior of difficult employees because that is what reinforces their behavior. If someone does not call the employee out, they will internalize and believe that how they act is appropriate. These people are driven mostly by a strong need to control their environment. They use their behavior to manipulate and influence other employee’s reactions. They feel a sense of control even if they are punished for their actions because they know they created the mayhem and that is enough of a payoff for them.
It is a burden on all companies faced with difficult employees especially if their job skills are much needed and they are good at what they do. We have all found ourselves outweighing the cost of dealing with them because we thought we could not replace them and we just hope that somehow we could find a way to deal with the havoc they cause. We will get drawn into the drama of this one employee and will find that other employees are waiting to see how we deal with it. Worse yet is refusing to address the problem at all which you will find only perpetuates the problem and really only serves to further motivate their difficult behavior or actions. As the employer or manager, you need to control the chaos caused by difficult employees who truly enjoy pushing everyone’s buttons. Most of these difficult employees are immune to being yelled at and called out for their bad behavior instead they actually get some personal satisfaction and consider it a reward.
When faced with a difficult employee the best way to handle him or her is in private, away from others. You need to communicate to the employee how their behavior is affecting the workplace environment in a non-confrontational manner. Using the right words is imperative. Don’t tell this person that their behavior is too aggressive if that is the case, but make sure they understand how the behavior affects other employees. Make sure you start off by highlighting all the good behavior and how important their good job performance is to the company. You will need to ask the employee what he or she can do to change in the near future. When the employee tells you what they plan to change, end the meeting with a summary of the points that were discussed and the ways the employee plans to work to improve his or her behavior.
Set Clear Limits
Now that you have given this feedback to your employee it is imperative that you address clear limits, along with consequences, that will occur if the employee’s behavior continues. Develop a performance plan that establishes in writing your expectations and goals for the employee. This plan will benefit not only you but also the employee, as it will establish steps necessary to help the employee to improve along with the consequences if he or she does not meet the goals.
Once you establish this plan it is important that not only the employee meet all the goals but you as the manager or owner must meet your obligations to follow through. You will need to make sure that if a warning notice is necessary, that you do it promptly and objectively. Make sure the record reflects the actions of the employee along with how you expect the employee to handle the situation in the future. You must also let the employee know what will happen the next time he/she exhibits the same behavior that should include further disciplinary action up to and including termination.
When you find yourself at the point when all else has failed and the difficult employee just will not accept responsibility for their inappropriate behavior, you will have to decide whether you are willing to put any more effort into helping this person improve his or her conduct. However, if you have done your due diligence in the performance plan that you put in place for this employee, you most likely will be faced with the inevitable termination of the problematic employee. As much as this will seem to be a burden on your business - especially if you have no one qualified to replace that employee’s particular job skill, which may be the reason that person refused to change because he or she thought you just could not get along without them - you may be pleasantly surprised that other employees will step up and help you solve that problem.
Always keep in mind that dealing with difficult people in the workplace is not hopeless. Deal with all employees in a manner that includes open, honest and ongoing communication. If you do not have a company manual in place, get one done as soon as possible. This may require consulting legal counsel to make sure you understand employment law and how that can be applied in your company manual and employee job descriptions. A job description is necessary as all employees need to know exactly what is expected of them and what the consequences are for poor behavior, performance or attendance. Effectively manage not only the difficult employees but also make double sure the good ones never doubt your appreciation of them. No matter what happens in the end, if you successfully motivate your employees to perform at the highest level and reward them accordingly your company will benefit. Happy employees make for a happy workplace where success is the only outcome.
Sandy Blalock is an industry consultant and owner of Blalock Consulting, based in Edgewood, N.M. and also the executive director of the Automotive Recyclers of Indiana. Sandy is the former owner of Capo’s Truck & Auto Parts in Albuquerque and is an ARA past president. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.