Dealing with a difficult or needy employee is an inevitable part of a manager’s role. There are often a number of factors at play – an employee may feel underutilised, undervalued, overworked or just be plain incompetent. If you find yourself frustrated by a member of staff or not able to communicate with them effectively, these are the steps you need to take:


Sometimes just giving an employee some quality airtime can be enough to affect their attitude in a positive way, so allow him or her to express their dissatisfaction, irritation and concerns (even if you’re unconvinced of their validity). Arrange a private session where you actively take their views on board and give them the opportunity to speak openly with you. This not only makes them feel heard but it means they are less likely to moan to their coworkers about their issues. Distancing their negative or toxic attitude from the rest of the team is extremely important.

Deal with poor performance

Address any issues with their performance quickly and directly. Offer them frequent and constructive feedback about how they can improve and ask them to reflect on their own strengths, weaknesses and ways they can add more value in their role. Determine the best course of action together as they’ll be more motivated if you’re tackling the problem collaboratively. As manager, it’s crucial that you can distinguish between poor performance and misconduct and remain focused on the actions of the person rather than their personality.

Be patient

Changing behaviours is a lengthy process so try to be patient and realise there’s no quick fix here. Set milestones for performance reviews and track progress. Keep a record of all exchanges and targets, this will be especially necessary if it comes to disciplinary action or even dismissal.

Stick to your guns

If you’re reprimanding an employee for a certain misdemeanour, be consistent about it. It will completely undermine your position if you’re seen to selectively enforce rules. Holding an employee accountable for bad behaviour can be uncomfortable but it’s absolutely necessary to be an effective leader. Avoid sharing your frustrations with other team members, even if they initiate it, as this can foster bad will and damage your reputation.

Keep your emotions in check

As difficult as it may be, don’t allow a problem employee to provoke you. Maintain a professional distance and ensure you’re going through the correct company channels, documenting each and every incident/issue as you go. Be prepared to make the difficult decision and be sure you’ve adequate evidence to justify it.

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