Dealing With Difficult Employees

A Quick Guide to Dealing with Difficult Employees

While having employees is supposed to lessen your workload and make the business more productive, having a less than stellar employee can have, instead, the opposite effect. Dealing with difficult employees is not easy, but here are some tips to help you attempt to fix the situation, rather than add fuel to the fire.

Legal Considerations

The first thing to keep in mind when dealing with difficult employees is any potential legal considerations. If you have a human resources manager, discuss the situation with her. She will be able to guide you as to what action to take that will preserve your rights in the best possible way.

If you are a small business with no human resources department, you’ll want to become well-versed in the basic employment laws including federal and those in your state.

Have a Talk

The first step to dealing with difficult employees is to have a talk with them. Often, the employees may not even realize that their behavior is negative. Other times, the employee may think that the behavior is going unnoticed by management.

Hopefully, pointing out the behavior – and the fact that you are aware of it – will be all it takes to correct it.

Obviously, if the problem is performance related, you will probably be able to offer coaching and tips that can help bring the employees performance up to par.

Often, however, the problem is related more to the attitude of the employee, and the way he deals with others.

Unfortunately, there are many times when that type of problem is not easily solved.

Again, some employees may not realize how their attitude is coming across or how it is affecting others. Sometimes, once made aware of it, they honestly work to change it.


When dealing with difficult employees, a chat isn’t always going to solve the problem. The next steps would include formal counseling sessions and written warnings. How many written warnings you give would depend on how many chances you were willing to extend to the employee as well as the severity of the behavior.


The reason that written warnings are important is because they provide a written record of your interactions with this employee.  This could be very important later, especially if you need to show cause as to why you had to let the employee go.

Cut Your Losses

The goal, of course, should be to bring the employees performance up to a level that would make him a valuable member of the team. If this does not happen, however, there comes a time when the only viable option is letting him go.

When dealing with difficult employees, some employers hang on far too long.  One reason is that they know that training someone new will be a hassle. Another is that the employer continues to hope that whatever problem the employee is causing will resolve itself.

Having to fire someone is never pleasant, but when it starts to affect the other employees in a negative way or is harmful to the business, it may be time to cut your losses.

One thing to keep in mind is to try and not let the situation get out of hand. Some employers let difficult employees go for so long that by the time they do finally let them go, their office is in shambles and the morale of the other employees is low.

The difficult employees should never be allowed to be the ones who are setting the temperament in the office. When this starts to happen, it is definitely time for a change.

As mentioned above, dealing with difficult employees is never easy. Just use tact and stay professional. Hopefully, he will turn around the negative behavior. If not, you’ll know that you did all you could.