Whether you work in Dubai’s buzzing start-up community or a large established international company, bringing out the best in employees is the leader’s mantra. But what do you do with an employee who is difficult to work with, yet does their job brilliantly?
Some people are like vampires, sucking all the joy and life out of an organisation. Whether it’s the constant flow of critical emails, the snide backchat at lunch, or insults thrown around like confetti – the effect is to bring down the morale of people around them.
But some organisations keep difficult employees around because it’s been decided they are too good at what they do. It could be the creative who always delivers winning ideas, the accountant keeping the business afloat, or the engineer effortlessly fixing technology glitches.
Yet, as a leader it’s your job to ensure the whole company is working well. Pandering to the negative whims of one employee could lead to you losing other employees. You’re feeling that one individual is too valuable can rub off on others, making them feel unappreciated, or worthless.
This low morale in other employees can lead to staff handing in their notice. And if they’d rather move to another company, is this one individual worth the time and the money to train up new people?
On the flip side, people may not leave your business, but the negative impact of working with a difficult employee can lead to lower performance. Looking at that lowered performance across the board, and your business is going to suffer.
So how do you deal with a difficult person?
Firstly, examine the issues being brought to you by the individual’s co-workers. Are they valid? Can they be backed up with facts? With technology being used so frequently for communication, any offensive behaviour committed via email or social media can be readily examined.
Once you’ve established the extent of a person’s unpleasant behaviour, it’s time to have a one-to-one with them. Outline the complaints and work out a way to help modify their behaviour to be less offensive towards others.
One way is to offer them training. Sometimes a course in emotional intelligence, or stress/anger management can have a positive effect. And it’s a more productive way for you to keep an exceptional talent.
You should also remind them of their obligation to abide by company policy – offensive or bullying behaviour cannot be tolerated in any organisation. Some businesses have a three strikes rule. Once a person has transgressed beyond three warnings they are given an official warning, then if the behaviour persists, they are fired.
After the initial meeting, you then have to allow time for your discussion to sink in. Monitor their behaviour at work more closely and see if there is an improvement.
If there is no improvement (and in some cases addressing a problem can make difficult people behaviour worsen) and they are proving toxic to the workplace, as the leader you have to make a tough decision. Keep them and get others to work around their idiosyncrasies, or jettison them from the company. If you’re going to get rid of someone, ensure you’ve lined up a replacement first!