The 7 Most Difficult Employees to Manage

How to Successfully Oversee Tough to Manage Workers

Some Employees Are Tougher Than Others

If you’re a manager or small business owner, we don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be managing employees. Even the best ones can be challenging, but the challenging ones can be damn near impossible at times.

However, the fact of the matter is you’re going to run into difficult workers and you’re going to have to figure out how to deal with them. Not only that, you need to find a way to make them productive, keep morale high, and make it so your business fosters and maintains a positive working environment. That is often a learned skill, and it’s one that will be put to the test when you encounter your first batch of tough-to-manage employees who test your patience and your limits.

Here are the seven most frustrating types of employees, and tips on how to best deal with them. Good luck.

7. The Coaster

This refers to employees who have been at their jobs for more years than you can count, barely do the minimum to get by, and are just biding their time and collecting paychecks until retirement or something better comes along. It’s tough because they aren’t doing anything to get fired, but they’re not engaged at all and they have no interest in going above and beyond the call of duty. Their inability to work hard or put it any effort affects other team members who are working hard to get ahead with little help from the people coasting along.

Do your best to figure out what’s causing the malaise. If it’s a matter of not being challenged, find something that sparks their interest. Schedule a performance review and talk to them one-on-one to figure out how to get the best of out of them.

6. The Victim

Do you have someone in your office who always manages to find himself on the receiving end of bad news? Missed deadlines? Bad client experiences? It’s never his fault, of course, because there’s always someone else to blame. Or is there?

The Victim is always under-delivering except when it comes to making excuses for why his work is subpar yet again. Everyone is out to get him and luck is never on his side. Except that’s seldom truly the case. Luck is the residue of design, so if The Victim is constantly falling prey to bad luck, it’s almost certainly coming on the heels of not being prepared or not working up to his potential. This person needs to learn how to take responsibility for his actions and step up his game so he’s not dragging everyone else down and playing the blame game.

As a manager, you might have to do some serious hand-holding for a little while. Give very numerous, very exact deadlines so this person knows exactly what is expected of him and when. Perhaps it’s this bit of added structure that is necessary to get this type of employee moving in the right direction.

5. The Pessimist

These people can be a real problem.

You know them, you cringe at the mere thought of them. These are the naysayers. The negative nellies. The people who are quick to shoot down every single idea and tell you how stupid the plan is, without ever offering any kind of a solution. Their negative attitudes combined with their inability to be proactive or offer any kind of positive feedback creates an environment that is not at all conducive to brainstorming and generating new ideas.

The silver lining is you actually need people kind of like this at your job. Having someone point out potential pitfalls and shortcomings is necessary. But as with most things, it’s all in the delivery. So try to take these people aside and make a rule — if you point out a problem you have to come to the table with a solution. You don’t want to stop them from thinking about drawbacks, but you want to encourage them to consider fixes as well.

4. The Flash

You might not recognize this problem employee immediately because, well, she hasn’t been in the office enough for you to remember what she looks like.

Whenever there is work to be done or a deadline to be met, it seems her cubicle is empty. It’s either a last minute doctor’s appointment, her kid is sick, she had to run out for coffee even though it’s been two hours, etc. This person becomes almost mythical, like the Loch Ness Monster, because people think they’ve seen her at her desk but no one can really be sure.

This is a hard worker to deal with because there’s a very good possibility she either hates her job and is going to continue hating it, or she’s ducking out to go on job interviews in which case she’ll be gone soon anyway. If you can pin her down, just do your best to have a heart-to-heart regarding her feelings for the job and what she likes/dislikes about the position, so you can try to get back on track.

3. The Narcissist

Me me me me ME!

It’s all about The Narcissist, all the time. This is the person who loves to hear himself talk in meetings, even if he’s just regurgitating what other people have said and trying to take credit for an idea that isn’t his. Wanting engaged employees is one thing, but when the engagement is the result of an overinflated ego that can’t stand to be left out of any conversation, that gets annoying pretty quickly.

The problem is many narcissists are also top-performers, and the people you need working on accounts. So the best thing to do is create team-oriented goals instead of individual benchmarks for achievement. Perhaps this will shift The Narcissist’s thinking to a more “team first” approach, and everyone can benefit.

2. The Overly Defensive Worker

There are few things more difficult than dealing with an overly defensive employee who can’t take any kind of constructive criticism.

These are the people who turn in a first draft and expect glowing praise and no red pen on their copy. If you suggest changes, they get all bent out of shape and a huge argument ensues that causes hard feelings and awkwardness among the entire team, all because you’ve got a few people who think even the most constructive criticism is a personal attack.

If possible, set up more frequent meetings with overly defensive employees so you can get them used to taking feedback on a more consistent basis. Hopefully they’ll see not everything is an attack and everyone just wants what is best for the company.

1. The Know It All

The good news is these employees are legitimately brilliant. The bad news? They know they’re brilliant.

For people this intelligent, being right is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because what they’re saying is true, but because they know they’re right they tend to be inflexible and refuse to bend even a bit. They also tend to talk down to people, which can cause a fair amount of tension and consternation among other team members.

So how do you handle these folks? Play to their condescension a bit and tell them that yes, they’re right. However, they need to act like leaders and bring other employees up instead of tearing them down by making them feel like they don’t know what they’re talking about. Transform these brainiacs into leaders and get them to use their smarts without making everyone else feel dumb.

Whether you’re dealing with one or all of these different types of employees, you’re going to have to negotiate with each of them. But are you fully prepared to do so?

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Business, employment, HR