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June 2016, by Michelle Lemire

Difficult employees: How to keep them from having a bad influence on team engagement

As head hunters and human resource consultants, we know that having a solid recruitment process and succession plan is the best way to ensure you hire the right person at the right time. But no process or plan is infallible, and sometimes companies end up hiring difficult employees with problematic behavior. If this has happened to you, read on for some tips from Michelle Lemire, Managing Director at Hubble, on how to keep such situations from having a negative impact on your team’s engagement level.

When I became a manager, I was fortunate enough to inherit a team made up almost entirely of highly committed individuals who shared a strong spirit of cooperation and respect. This was lucky for the company as a team’s attitude has an influence not only on its own performance but on all its collaborators and even customer service. A single individual’s negative behavior can be equally contagious, while also monopolizing much of our time and energy as managers.

Should this occur, here are a few possible solutions:

  1. Take charge of the situation right away. Don’t let the situation deteriorate, and keep the negative attitude from affecting the rest of the team.
  2. Establish open communication. Resolving difficult situations calls for an open mind and good listening skills.
  3. Adapt your management style if necessary. Some cases may call for you to adopt a different leadership style than you normally use, requiring a great deal of humility and courage.

What to do when you encounter resistance

Sometimes particularly difficult behavior may persist even after you have taken all the appropriate measures. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a human resources specialist for help if you need to. Some situations may be the result of deeper personal issues or health problems. It’s important to recognize that sometimes managers are not in a position to provide the right kind of help.

If a bad attitude continues, you may have no choice but to terminate employment. Sometimes, despite being highly competent and efficient, an employee simply does not like their job. In such a case, you may want to help the person find a new position.

Possible sources of negative behavior

Based on my experience as a manager, I have identified four main sources of negative employee behavior. If you are able to recognize the underlying need that is being expressed, you’ll be in a better position to fix the situation:

  • Need for recognition 
  • Need for reassurance
  • Need for attention 
  • Need for motivation 

Finally, to prevent a difficult employee from having a negative influence on your team, it is important to be attentive and available to your employees. Show that you’re open to dialogue, both one-on-one and in a group. If your expectations are clear and you make a point of recognizing your employees’ successes, you’ll minimize potential sources of frustration.