Turning Trouble makers into Team Players

Sometimes managers get stuck with employees who have attitude problems or are not performing as instructed or causing trouble around the office.  Many managers fail to turn those into productive engines.  From my point of view this is how to deal with those people to make them productive and avoid their negative effect around the office:

I. Needless to say of course, avoid hiring them in the first place by following an intelligent interviewing process that is able to reveal as much as possible about the employee personality and not only his qualifications for the job.

II. Category One: Employees who fail to deliver assignments exactly as instructed.

1- Adopt a clear policy of reward and punishment.  Make sure everyone understands clearly how exactly he will be punished if he delivers different than expectations. 

2- If they fail to deliver assignments exactly as instructed, start by adopting an open door policy by listening to them.  Ask them why they keep doing things differently and why they choose not to follow instructions.  Listen before you start getting mad. And try to make them realize that they have to follow instructions in a friendly manner without being bossy. Also do not take anything personally, if they tell you that you are not clear enough when you assign tasks and this is why they are confused. Consider the fact that this could be true and make sure to be 100% clear in the future.

3- If they insist on not doing tasks the way you asked start showing your authority by explaining clearly what they have to do.  Get into details of how to do the task at hand clearly to avoid the excuse of “I did not understand that you wanted it this way” and make it clear that no alteration to what you said is acceptable.

4- If they insist, without discussing anything further or even meeting with them start  applying punishments as explained in your policy. Send a very short email explaining why the punishment has been applied.  Do not treat them differently or be angry or lose your temper, treat them normally but make it clear that you are the boss. And do not allow them to discuss the punishment with you in an attempt to make you change your mind.

5- If they insist fire them.

Gradually they will turn into productive engines and you will not need to resort to step 5 except in rare cases.

III. Category two: Employees who keep complaining of everything and induce a negative spirit around the office that causes demotivation and affects productivity.

1- Start by listening again.  Make sure that they do not really have bad working conditions. Make sure to be fair in providing a motivating environment.

2- If they insist on demotivating everyone around the office, start making staff meetings to discuss all their complaints and if they are true deal with them.  If the complaints are not true, convince them in an intelligent way that they are complaining of nothing.  But you have to be fair and open minded.  Do not suppress true complaints. Make those meeting frequent with a fixed monthly date for instance to make sure you are dealing with all troubles as early as possible and dilute the effect of negative attitude employees.

3- If their attitude continues, start applying punishments and making it clear that their attitude is not acceptable.

4- If they insist fire them

IV. Category three: Employees with attitude problems, who deal with you and their colleagues in an unacceptable manner.

1- Make sure that you set an example of how all employees should treat each other around the office.  When you ask an employee to do a task, ask clearly, politely and thank him for his time.  Being a manager does not mean that you can be rude.  If you do so you set an example of how people should treat each other around the office.

2- If they insist on the rudeness and their colleagues complain of their unacceptable behavior. Start conducting one-to-one meetings to discuss the attitude and understand in a friendly way why they behave the way they do.  Listen honestly to their explanation, there could be a true reason that ignites them to behave the way they do. Try to resolve any true issues they bring to the table.

3- If they insist, issue a small punishment with a warning that next time a harsh punishment with be applied.

4- If they insist, apply the harsh punishment.

5- If they insist fire them.

The key points in dealing with difficult employees is:

  • To have a clear reward and punishment policy from the beginning that covers all aspects and that is explained very well to all employees.
  • To set an example yourself by how you function and treat everyone around the office as a manager
  • To have an open minded and open door policy to listen to everyone and be fair and impersonal in your judgments.

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