Every HR Manager has their special story about a difficult employee. Every organization has them and they represent ongoing challenges for HR Managers. Difficult employees come in many forms and the chances are you have run into more than one in your career:
Always Negative and Not Shy About Complaining –The glass is always half empty, they are cynical, unenthusiastic and usually uncooperative and have no problem sharing their negative opinions with others.
The Superstar – The high performing employee who believes they can do no wrong. Arrogant and egotistical and no one wants to work with or for them.
Passive-Aggressive – This can be one of the most challenging. The employee who seemingly agrees with a plan and then goes off and does his or her own Hostile-Aggressive – In today’s work environment, this type of employee can cause fear in the workplace. They are demanding, argumentative, and you may have seen signs of abusive or violent behavior.
Whatever their modus operandi (MO), it is typically up to HR to handle these individuals. As an HR professional, your role is to try and diffuse situations. You are responsible to coach valued employees to change their negative behavior as well as to prevent discrimination and nuisance lawsuits against the company.
Make Sure You Have the Facts
There is always some level of emotion when you are dealing with difficult employees, so make sure you are not basing your actions on gossip or rumor. If you did not witness the behavior yourself, investigate the report. Interview everyone involved and collect all the facts before you act.
Prepare for the Meeting
It is essential that you prepare for the meeting versus going off the cuff. Schedule a place and time for the meeting and make sure that the place is private to avoid interruptions. It is highly suggested that managers are coached by Human Resources prior to having this type of conversation and/or are present during the meeting.
Act Swiftly to Address the Behavior
As soon as the problem is brought to your attention, take steps to address the issue. If this person is a senior level or influencer in your organization, it probably took a lot of courage for someone to come forward and it has probably been going on for some time. If the situation is not dealt with, it will send a powerful message to others that it is acceptable to behave badly and that you are not effective in dealing with employee complaints.
Having the Difficult Conversation
Once the meeting takes place, you can start by telling the employee that you have some feedback you would like to share and help them prepare by telling them that this feedback may be difficult to hear.The best feedback is always straightforward. Don’t try to sugar coat the situation. Make it clear that you’re having this conversation because they need to address the concerns you are raising in order to be successful in the organization. Give the employee some time to digest the information and share their point of view. Everyone needs to feel they are being heard. As an HR professional, your training and experience will be critical as you listen to them react to the feedback.
From an organizational perspective you need to determine if this employee can be coached to succeed, will they immediately resign, will they try to sabotage the organization after the meeting is over; will they file a lawsuit or most importantly, will they become violent
Objectives of Your Meeting
There are three objectives you want to try and achieve during this first meeting:
- Make it clear that there are consequences for not changing behavior and how it could affect their career and job.
- Try to reach an agreement on what they are going to do to change their behavior; and
- Set a date for a follow-up meeting to assess progress being made.
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