Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

How to Deal with Difficult Employees

A difficult employee can change the whole tone within an office, causing morale to drop and tense relationships to form. As a manager, it’s your duty to come up with a way to work around these problems, ensuring that everyone is at their most productive. Here are a few common types of problematic employees that you may encounter in your office, with solutions on how to cope:

The issue: An employee who complains constantly

The solution: Let them know that you’re here for real, pressing issues, but that you can’t become the complaint department. If there is a serious problem that’s impacting their ability to do their job, you want to know about it. However if they need to whine about a team member listening to music without headphones, you trust that they’re an adult and can come up with a solution to the problem on their own.

The issue: The “teacher’s pet”

The solution: This employee wants to be the shining star, and may act ruthlessly in order to earn your attention. Be aware of this behavior, and don’t be fooled by their charms. Treat them as you would any other employee, even when they’re piling on compliments and bringing you coffee each morning. If the behavior becomes particularly over the top, explain that you appreciate the nice gestures, but that you’d prefer that they focus their time and attention on their work instead of attending to your needs.

The issue: The employee who can never show up on time

The solution: First, figure out the reason behind the problem. If the person seems to be unaware that they always run late, address the situation and ask that they make it a point to leave for meetings early so that they give themselves plenty of time to get there. However, if their issues with punctuality seem to be due to a poor attitude, it’s time to have a different kind of conversation. Explain that you won’t tolerate their tardy behavior any longer, and stand by this statement. If this means that the team member shows up halfway through a meeting and has to struggle to catch up, that’s their own fault. If it means that they miss out on joining in on the best projects when assignments are doled out at the start of the meeting, so be it.

By learning how to manage difficult employees, you keep your office a positive and productive place to do business, while reducing turnover rates. However, if it becomes evident that a problem employee is no longer able to perform, it’s best to part ways quickly so as to avoid wasting time and energy trying to salvage a relationship that is no longer a good fit.

Image: Wavebreak Media Ltd/

Lauren Levine

Lauren Levine is a copywriter/blogger who contributes to a number of magazines and websites including The Frisky, USA Today, and others. She also authors her own blog called Life with Lauren. She loves cooking, anything on the E! network, and is trying to convince herself that running isn't so bad.