3 Actions To Help You Deal With A Difficult Employee

3 Actions To Help You Deal With A Difficult Employee

  • March 23, 2022

From time to time we’re going to have to deal with difficult employees who either drive a wedge between you and other employees, or the customer experience.

These three leadership actions can help turn performance around.

Take time to reflect

Leader set the tone for the organisation. Take a moment to look in the mirror. Be honest. Are you setting the example you want to see? Have you self-evaluated?

Ask yourself:

  • Do you want the difficult employee to treat you and others with more respect? Do they see you treating others that way?
  • Do you want the employee to respect you as a leader? Do you believe you’ve earned the respect? Have you given them a reason to respect you other than your formal authority?


What are their priorities?

As a leader, you should know what your employees want. When you understand their priorities, you can make the best decision when it comes to communicating, delegating, rewarding, etc. in order to curb bad performance.

Sit down and have an open, honest conversation with the difficult employee. Ask them what is most important to them, what they want to achieve within the organisation, and what their ideal workplace looks and feels like. Answers to these questions will give you clues into how to best move forward.


Establish expectations and accountability

Crystal clear expectations are one of the most underestimated leadership tools. If people understand the expectation, they’ll rise to meet it. When it comes to a difficult employee, it’s likely that somewhere along the way, expectations and accountability have become misaligned.

Regardless of the size of your organisation, written expectations can help. When expectations are only communicated verbally, there’s likely someone, somewhere who isn’t on the same page. That only leaves room for a wedge to be placed in between people. Job descriptions are a great place to start. Make sure those are accurate and very detailed. Review them with all employees.

After establishing and reviewing detailed expectations, it’s important that you create accountability. Accountability isn’t hand-holding or controlling people in order to get people to do what you want. Instead, accountability should be a mindset curated throughout the organisation so that people keep promises to themselves and others to give and get the best from each other. And when that doesn’t happen? We talk about it, we fix it, we move forward — together.



Very often we know what we should do, but we don’t do it.

Regardless of the specific challenges you’re facing, what can you do today that would set you and your team up for better success tomorrow? Your team is only as good as your leadership.



Want to improve your organisation’s leadership performance? We can help! Let’s talk!



Written by Sahar Habib
Founder of Coach Wilson