How to Extinguish the Fireworks Between You and the “Difficult Employee”

BY Kathy Crosett
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Let's say you're trying to do a good job coaching a specific employee. But every time you meet with them, you end up arguing. Maybe there’s some door slamming, too. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re dealing with a difficult person. The truth is – you’re playing a role in these encounters. If you want to be taken seriously as a manager, it’s time to develop your emotional intelligence and change your role.

A New Location

Adam Kahane, at strategy​-business​.com, points out that you need to plan ahead for next encounter with your ‘difficult’ employee. If the arguing and emotional outbursts between you and an employee keep happening in your office, the physical location could be serving as a trigger. Set up a different kind of encounter. Instead of meeting in your office, schedule a trip to a local coffee shop.

A New Agenda

If the two of you have been arguing for some time about the same problem, change the topic for your next encounter. Establish a ‘low-​stakes’ agenda. Talk about a goal or a challenge that you suspect you might both agree on. After you have that first productive meeting, you’re on the way to establishing a new pattern and an improved working relationship.

A New You

Another way to avoid emotional outbursts is to be alert for how you’re feeling when you meet with various individuals. Are you aware of how you react to specific triggers? For example, does it bother you when an employee appears to be slacking? Could you possibly be jumping to the conclusion that the employee is slacking, when, in fact, they may be carefully thinking through the steps needed to solve a challenging problem.

If you’re feeling stressed and worried about getting your work done, you might be reverting to the kind of reaction that you’ve always had in the past. As a manager, those reactions aren’t necessarily healthy for you, your reputation as a manager, or your employees. Instead of reacting immediately to something that bothers you, think about other ways you could respond. And, if possible, delay your response. When you interact with your employee, the communication, at that later point, will be more logical and less emotional.

This process is similar to the ‘power pause’ described by Anne Perschel at Germane Coaching & Consulting. Regardless of who you're interacting with, take a deep breath when you feel yourself getting emotional. Stop and think about what you want to say. By slowing down the process, your logical self will take over.