When Good Workers Go Bad: How to Manage Difficult Employees
By Cameron Bishop
Difficult employees. Every workplace has them, and the common cry resounds, “Why can’t we just fire them?” Why? Because firing people is expensive. Termination means you’re throwing all that employee’s training, experience, and corporate knowledge away. Add in the time and overall cost of searching for a replacement, interviewing all the candidates, screening them, hiring them, training them, and getting them up to the level of the terminated employee is often twice their salary.
If the terminated employee was part of upper management, you could be looking at four to five times the cost of their salary to replace them. It’s a far greater cost than if you had been able to turn their bad attitude around. Then there are the legal considerations involved in firing, which can lead to additional costs in defensive legal action. Generally, if a person proves to be difficult in the workplace, he or she will be far more difficult as a disgruntled former employee in the courtroom when lawsuits begin to fly.
Are they just difficult employees … or impossible?
Finally, there’s the difference between being difficult to work with and being impossible. As a CEO, my first reaction to people complaining about someone being difficult is to tell them to figure out a way to get work done. We’re professionals and we don’t need to want to take a combined family vacation with a co-worker to have a decent work relationship.
Unfortunately, the line between difficult and impossible is razor-thin and once someone enters the “impossible” territory, that’s when managers must intervene. Management can coach, mentor and even discipline “difficult” but sadly, “impossible” generally ends in termination.
So, what can you do to eliminate the risk of difficult becoming impossible? First, be sure your hiring and vetting practices are rigorous. The tougher it is for a candidate to get a job, the more likely you’ll weed out a potentially bad hire. Depending on the position you’re filling, make sure you and your other managers spend enough time with them to make the best possible hiring decisions.
Abrasive tendencies will rear their ugly heads at some point if a candidate has to jump through a tough series of hoops. And if those hoops reveal a glimpse of “difficult” in a job candidate—who should be trying to make a good impression—you know you could be in trouble down the line if you make the hire.
What to do when a current employee becomes difficult
Now, let’s turn to current employees who are becoming difficult. Recognize that people sometimes act difficult because they want attention. They are focused on their needs first, and the needs of others are always secondary. Their emotional immaturity is just part of who they are, and it’s your job to figure out how to make them as productive as possible.
Difficult people’s emotional immaturity leads to a variety of unacceptable behaviors which can tear down the morale of those around them. Some might use sarcasm; others might use put-downs; and some might be downright aggressive and call people names. Keep in mind that each of these tactics is an attempt by difficult people to make themselves feel superior. Unfortunately, they do so at the expense of their co-workers and they drag down the overall level of productivity as a result.
While some difficult people are aggressive, others are difficult by being irritatingly passive. They complain about their lot in life and waste huge amounts of time whining and blowing small issues out of proportion. They blame others for failures, conveniently leaving out details of their own roles in doomed ventures. By playing the victim, these employees never have to face their own inadequacies—and they will never learn to overcome them until their behavior is confronted.
There are certain tactics that will work across the board, no matter which type of difficult employees you are dealing with:
– Listen to them. The only way to identify their unmet needs is to talk to them and find out what’s really going on.
– Paraphrase what you think they are saying to be sure you are really understanding them. Occasionally, hearing their problems interpreted by another makes them realize how petty their problems sound. Or, they will find their own solution when hearing it from someone else’s perspective.
– Help the difficult person develop an ideal course of action, weighing the pros and cons and looking at the big picture.
– Help difficult people achieve short-term goals to build their self-esteem and their belief in themselves as problem solvers.
Then there are some other things you can try, depending on the difficult employees you are trying to reach:
– Isolate the trigger of their difficult behavior. Is it a thing, a person, a task? Help them address the trigger and overcome the negative effect it causes.
– Identify a pattern in the difficult behavior. Most difficult people act up after something “lights the fuse” — at work or at home.
– Stay positive. Getting negative plays into their need for excess attention.
– Be direct and non-judgmental—using only the facts and leaving emotions out of it.
– Know when you are out of your league. Sometimes only trained psychological professionals will be able to help. Refer difficult employees to your company’s EAP, if you have one.
Whatever you do, don’t try to manipulate them into quitting. If you believe they’re worth the effort (and everyone is) try discipline and counseling to help. Then, if that doesn’t work, and you’ve exhausted your options, it’s time to start the termination process. It’s the least enjoyable part of management, but it’s also a necessity at times.
TLC For Your Summer Eyes
What sunglasses offer the best eye protection? With summer comes sunshine – and exposure to ultraviolet rays and white-hot glare, which can cause problems like cataracts and macular degeneration over time. That’s why you need a really good paid of sunglasses. When shopping for shades, there are a few things you should keep in mind (other than the desire to channel your fave celeb).
– Look for both UVA and UVB protection. Choose the shades with the highest UVA/UVB protection you can find. The level of protection should be listed on the sunglasses’ sticker or tag.
– Select amber or brown lenses. These colors enhance contrast, so you’ll be able to see better.
– Try polarized lenses. These are the best for reducing glare. This is especially important if you have had eye surgery such as LASIK.
Optometrists can help you choose the right sunglasses. Don’t be afraid to spend a bit more money on a good paid of shades – a little extra protection is worthwhile in the long run.
Why does my eye twitch, and how do I stop it? Eye twitches are common and typically aren’t anything to worry about or to seek medical treatment for. The most common culprits are stress and fatigue, but twitches also can be caused by eye strain, eye irritation, certain medications or caffeine. Getting more rest, reducing stress and cutting out caffeine will likely resolve the problem. Drops may also help. If your twitch is accompanied by redness in your eyes, light sensitivity or any changes in your vision, see your eye doctor to rule out a more serious issue.
Are pool and lake water bad for my eyes? Chlorine keeps water clean and safe, but it sometimes makes eyes red, watery and sensitive to light for a couple of hours after you are in a pool. The best way to ease the pain is to flush your eyes with cool, clean water or a saline solution. And wear swim goggles! Lake and pond water can contain bacteria and other organisms, including acanthamoeba, which can cause visual impairment or even blindness if left untreated. Contact lens wearers are more susceptible. Remove your contacts and wash out your eyes after swimming.
Why are my eyes crusty in the morning? The “sleep” in your eyes is a mixture of the oil, mucus and dead cells that your eye has produced overnight. Your eyes constantly make the stuff, and every blink flushes it out along with irritants such as stray eyelashes or specks of dust or dirt. When you’re sleeping, your eyes continue to manufacture tears and mucus, but because you’re not blinking, the excess matter gathers in the corners of your eyes and in your eyelashes. A small amount of clear or whitish eye discharge in the morning typically is not a reason for concern. Use a washcloth with warm water to loosen and then remove it. You can prevent excessive eye gunk by removing make-up before going to sleep and refraining from touching your face, eyelids and eyes throughout the day.
When Employees Are Supported
By Steve Bent
Creating a culture where employees are highly motivated and well supported in doing their jobs effectively is not only good for employees, it’s good for the bottom line. That according to a new analysis of employee survey data from more than 400 companies spanning multiple industries globally.
Researchers found a direct relationship between highly engaged and enabled employees and increased company sales/earnings.
Growth in Sales:
– Companies where employees scored high on engagement saw nearly double the 5-year sales growth rates of those with low engagement scores.
– Companies where employees scored high on feeling enabled to do their jobs saw nearly triple the 5-year sales growth rates of those with low scores in this area.
Growth in Earnings Per Share (EPS)
– Companies where employees scored high on engagement saw nearly double the 5-year EPS growth rates of those whose employees scored low on motivation.
– Companies where employees scored high on feeling enabled to do their jobs saw 33% higher 5-year EPS growth rates of those whose employees scored low in this area.
Researchers also found a strong relationship between engaged and enabled employees and retention and performance.
– Performance: Highly engaged employees who are also well enabled to do their jobs are 21% more likely to exceed performance expectations.
– Retention: Among employees scoring low on engagement and enablement, 45% intend to leave their current employers in the next two years. By contrast, just 8% of highly engaged and enabled employees express an intent to depart within 24 months.
Developing the Modern Multigenerational Workforce
By Michele Markey
In today’s workplace, as many as five generations of workers are collaborating on projects. These employees have different backgrounds, jobs, knowledge, education, personalities and goals, and they also have different ideas about what they expect from their workplace and employers. Organizations prepared to meet employees where they are—and where they want to be—will thrive in the emerging modern workplace.
As Baby Boomers reach retirement age, younger l eaders will be challenged to maintain the products, services and brand reputation that were previously established. To ensure younger workers are prepared for the challenge, it is crucial for every organization to create a continuous pipeline of leaders. Leadership is a learned skill that takes time and experience to build, which is why many organizations are on board with a modern approach that supports “leaders at all levels.”
The fast-paced and competitive market requires frontline employees to quickly respond to customers, opportunities and challenges. Not only does this strengthen customer relationships, but it builds a brand image of quick response, customer focus, organizational ethics and accountability. Employees who are trusted to make decisions, find creative solutions and resolve challenges are also more engaged.
By having capable and qualified people they can promote from within, organizations can improve loyalty and engagement. Current employees are familiar with the organization’s culture and history, and they know what made it strong in the past. While they have new ideas, employees who are promoted know the value of the vision, brand and social image that has supported the company’s success.
To gain trust, employees must receive training designed to encourage and support exploration, practice/application and growth. Leadership is not a simple skill to learn. It takes self-awareness, self-discipline, an understanding of human relationships and strategic and tactical skills.
Personal and Professional Development While there are distinct differences between the generations in terms of what they expect from work, they are all united in finding meaning and feeling valued in their work. In addition to hard, technical skills, multigenerational workforces are interested in soft skills that provide personal and professional development. Specific skills managers are looking for in the workforce include:
• Leadership development
• Managing change
•Workplace technology skills
• Critical thinking
• Innovation and creativity
• Oral communication
• Business acumen
• Data analytics
• Global mindset
Learning and development plays a key role in developing these skills, retaining employees and keeping them engaged. Companies that fall short in employee development may face performance challenges due to market changes and talent
attrition. Ultimately, those companies will be forced to hire external talent that is untested or promote internal staff without the appropriate skills.
opportunities is through targeted and meaningful learning opportunities customized to their needs, interests and levels. Relevant and engaging formal training programs also should be used to develop future leaders.
Popular delivery methods are:
Continuous learning, which makes materials and content accessible through many formats, including technology and interaction with peers and in-house mentors, and puts a value on learning as much as productivity in the workplace Employee-driven learning, which empowers employees to define their own continuous path of training based on intrinsic motivators like autonomy, mastery and curiosity and extrinsic motivators like badges and rewards
Personalized learning, which an individual identifies to fill his or her own skills gaps, creating excitement and engagement
Regardless of how it is delivered, training must be conceptual and experiential, meaningful and relevant, customized to the needs of the learner, designed to help embrace and lead through change, and support the shared goals of a multigenerational workforce.
The Future State of Learning What can employees expect from training in the future? Research indicates these will be the top learning and development trends for 2019 and beyond.
1. Leadership development will remain strong, but the way leadership is defined will change as we move away
2. Learning what empowers employees will be vital. Putting the emphasis on empowerment requires us to look at skills like critical thinking, decision making, interpersonal skills and communication.
3. Soft skills will continue to grow in importance and sophistication. Instead of basic customer service skills, we will focus on building real customer relationships and having a deeper understanding of people’s reactions and our behaviors.
4. A greater ability to deal with change, as an organization and as individuals. Change is not an easy transition for many people, so there needs to be a greater emphasis on expanding what “embracing change” really means.
5. A stronger focus on creativity and innovation. If we want employees to be leaders and problem solvers, we must expand the way people think and stop limiting training to the ROI it brings to the company.
6. A greater emphasis on personalized learning, varied delivery methods and blended learning platforms to meet learners where they are and deliver training when it is needed.
Your employees have different backgrounds, knowledge, personalities and goals. Organizations prepared to meet the needs of their employees will thrive in the emerging modern workplace. In the end, it comes down to making sure employees feel engaged and valued—and learning and development programs play a major role. When you invest in your workforce, they will be more prepared to invest their future with your organization.
How to Tactfully Handle Outbursts from a Co-Worker
By Dan Rose
Difficult times, such as pay cuts, salary freezes, loss of bonuses, layoffs or organizational change causes great stress among employees. No matter what environment you’re in, chances are your team gets anxious … burned out … and feels disconnected. You probably feel the same way from time to time. You know that leads to lower morale, decreased productivity, diminishing employee performance, and ultimately a decline in company performance. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself having to handle outbursts from an emotional team member or co-worker.
Oftentimes communication is the number one culprit to these feelings. Misunderstandings lead to conflict. A lack of information leaves people feeling in the dark or confused. In short, bad communication plummets morale. Normally healthy communication can turn heated without warning, so it helps to have strategies in place to minimize the effects.
If a team member reaches his/her breaking point and you’re forced to handle outbursts:
– Don’t overreact to an outburst. Try to stay calm and just listen until you figure out what’s going on. The more centered you are, the more quickly the situation may begin to deescalate.
– When you do speak, don’t be defensive, and watch your body language. Once you determine the exact nature of the other person’s concern, then you can choose whether to defend your position or chalk up the behavior to a really bad day.
– Ask questions to gain a deeper understanding of the other person’s point of view, and reflect back what you’re hearing (whether or not you agree) to be sure you’ve got the right picture.
– Once you’ve listened to the initial outburst and reflected the other person’s concerns back to him or her, explain your intention for the rest of the conversation. Maybe it’s to schedule a meeting later when you have more time to focus, or maybe it’s to let the person know you appreciate his or her feedback. Just state for the record what you plan to do as a result of this conversation.
– If the conversation doesn’t cool off relatively quickly, acknowledge the strong emotions and suggest that you both take a break, then agree on a time and place to meet again when heads are cooler.
– Take the high road and thank the other person for his or her honesty and decision to come directly to you with the issue. The only way issues are resolved is through open communication.
It’s easy for employees to get discouraged or be overwhelmed with anxiety about what the future holds. Workplace conflicts are facts of life. Build stronger workplace relationships and get more done by handling confrontations better and working through disagreements. Few skills are as critical to your success as the ability to effectively handle outbursts and conflict with your co-worker!