How to Supervise Difficult Employees

BY Austin Richards
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Not all forms of conflict in an organization involve an argument. If you are always trying to convince a team member to change their work process but they keep missing deadlines, per Marlene Chism, a consultant, speaker and author on this topic, you have an unresolved conflict on your team. The conflict results from other team members’ frustrations regarding one person’s failure to produce. In these situations, you must learn how to supervise difficult employees.

Effective Ways to Supervise Difficult Employees

It’s easy to imagine that an employee might be deliberately subverting other team members, possibly because they’re upset about a perceived injustice or unfairness. From a supervisory perspective, you need to determine the cause and fix the problem to keep your team on track. If you don’t take action, other team members will act out.

Staff members can become agitated if a project delivery date is linked to a bonus and someone is holding up the process. As tempers flare, you may blame yourself for putting the wrong people on a team. But realistically, managers don’t always have a wide range of people to choose from when building their teams. You need to get to the bottom of the problem.

Supervising any employee requires managers to understand how that person works best, the kind of tasks they naturally excel at and how to communicate effectively. To get the most out of the team you’re working with, there’s no substitute for understanding what is driving their behavior. That means studying the results of psychometric assessments you ask them to take.

In these results, you’ll find details about the best way to communicate with each team member. Some employees appreciate managers who get right to the point. Other employees prefer a little small talk, perhaps discussion about how the weekend went, before a conversation jumps into a serious matter such as why they missed another deadline on finishing a report.

Are You Contributing to the Problem?

While you’re studying the unique aspects of each team member, take time for self-​reflection by reviewing your own profile. With a platform such as TeamTrait, you can also see how well you fit with each member of your team. Consider ways to change your behavior and usual responses to disappointing news when it comes to getting the job done.

Our research shows that 34% of sales reps believe holding others accountable is their manager’s greatest weakness. And 24% claim their managers struggle to have a positive attitude or assume positive intent. Before you begin to tackle performance issues with your team members, think through what you plan to say and how it will be received.

The Problem From the Employee’s Perspective

Once you know how you want to supervise difficult employees, you might want to view the issue as Chism suggests. “… understand that people do what they do because it’s working for them, even at the cost of team collaboration.” At this point, you have an opportunity to enact change on your team.

Learn why the employee is not finishing their work on time. If they are dealing with a prioritization problem, offer them additional training on time management. Employees who have suddenly encountered a personal crisis may be suffering from a mental health challenge. In this case, you may need to encourage them to seek professional help and give them a leave of absence from the project and team.

The worst-​case scenario will also require your attention. I'm talking about the person who rejects or ignores your suggestions repeatedly. This sometimes happens when you supervise difficult employees. Document your encounters and take the difficult step of letting them go from your team and from your organization.

The rest of the team will likely cheer your positive manager action of holding others accountable and shift their focus back to finishing the project.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.