Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

7 Management Tips – Communication with Difficult Employees



Multiple problems including loss of profit results from ineffectively dealing with difficult employees.

Tension is exacerbated as it causes teamwork and moral issues. Managers have a tendency to put too much a burden on cordial employees by turning away from the difficult personnel.

The chasm widens in communication. Managers avoid such workers. They don’t delegate to them. Managers seem to think it’s easy just to do the tasks themselves.

But delegation is a fundamental driver of organizational growth. Leadership is demonstrated with best practices in employee delegation.

Short of effective communication and delegation, organizational dysfunction worsens. Ultimately, it hurts relationships with customers and profits.

Such a situation can also spiral out of control and leads to legal issues. Because they feel ignored or treated unfairly, difficult employees often file legal complaints.

However, good managers know best coaching tactics. They know how to deal with such employees.

Such bosses stay objective and compartmentalize problems in communication to separate their emotions.

They focus on projects and results instead of the workers’ negative personalities.

You might never win over a difficult employee. But you can make such situations tenable.

Here are seven Biz Coach tips:

1. Directly deal with problems

Clear the air. It’s likely difficult employees don’t like you either because they don’t like themselves. So calmly approach the workers.

Help the workers to stay focused. Treat them like you would your customers.

Work on your phrasing, such as: “When you’re asked to do a project, please know I’m counting on you to do the job well. We’re different personalities, but we can still do our jobs well.”

2. Prepare to engage

It should be easy to make simple requests. If not, the problem is worse than you think.

Otherwise, for complicated instructions, rehearse your request in advance. Keep it simple. Use an economy words.

Write your request and memorize it. Then, verbally give your instructions.

3. Get acknowledgement

Never assume you’re being understood when handing out assignments. Get confirmation.

Give them an opportunity to ask questions. Ask employees to confirm what you’ve requested and what you expect of them.

4. Structure your approach

To promote flexibility and extemporaneous communication, give instructions orally and in writing.

Again, encourage questions. Invite suggestions.

Follow up with an email summarizing your expectations for the scope of the project with an expected duration or timeline.

5. Be consistent

Stay focused on the tasks at-hand. Treat difficult workers as you would congenial workers.

To encourage compliance, stay positive. Don’t make negative, unnecessary comments or keep bringing up the negative past.

6. Visit employees

Good managers walk the floor. They visit employees to engage them and asking open-ended questions.

The same principle doubly applies to difficult employees. In making assignments, avoid calling difficult employees to you. Go to them – on their turf – so they don’t feel defensive or feel they’re being summoned for a reprimand.

7. Don’t give away your power, enjoy your job

If it were so easy to manage difficult people, then everybody would be doing it. But the simple fact is – not all employees are collaborative, diligent, hardworking, skilled, and great at listening.

With a difficult employee, you have two obvious problems – the impacts on your organization and the behavior of the individual. But you can cope and love your job managing difficult employees.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles:

Tips to Prevent or, if Necessary, Eliminate Employee Toxicity — From time to time, nearly every boss has to cope with an employee’s negativity. That’s annoying enough, but you’ve got a nightmare if toxic attitudes spread among the rest of your workers. Here are solutions.

6 Quick Tips So Employees Respect Your Authority — It’s an awful feeling when your authority is non-existent. You’re not taken seriously. Employees are in charge. It’s also an indicator of related issues: Most often, profits are minimal. Customers become disenchanted and leave.

For Best HR Performance Reviews, 10 Sample Goal Phrases — A well-written set of performance goals work to motivate employees and help them to focus better on their responsibilities. They must be written with the right phrasing so they inspire performance and don’t invite costly lawsuits.

10 Best Practices for an Online Employee Handbook — Companies that don’t convert their employee handbooks into electronic documents are missing noteworthy opportunities in human resources. Conversely, businesses that switch to a digital format accomplish at least five HR goals.

6 Tips to Get Good Employee Ideas, Not Whining — Do you have employees who contribute positive ideas? Or do you have employees who always seem to whine? Aimless complaining is a symptom of problems in teamwork, morale, negativity and/or productivity. Here are six management strategies.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” 

-Dale Carnegie


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.