How do you deal with difficult employees

Dealing with difficult employees

They are constantly chatting, nagging or doing nothing: Occasionally a boss has employees with whom he cannot get along. This is the problem facing decision-makers who have taken over a department or a team.

Before a boss lapses into actionism, he should be clear about the employee and their motivation, advises Georg Kraus, coach and management consultant. "It is important to know in which ways the employee is difficult," he clarifies. "Is the employee difficult because he is a low performer, because he is sawing the boss's chair, or does he have social weaknesses?" Kraus therefore divides more difficult cases into three categories: K-D-W.

K stands for ability. Can the employee even do the job? D stands for may: May the employee does not do things - or does he not even know that he can decide things himself? And W stands for want: What is the attitude of the employee, want he even afford? "He can also be an individual optimizer," says Kraus. In other words: The employee optimizes himself, pays attention to his vacation, his work-life balance - but does not work at full speed. A good manager has to find out which category the employee belongs to, says Kraus - and react accordingly.

Touch your own nose

Two are always required for performance. For example, if a new boss joins the team, it can of course be the case that he has inherited a difficult employee. Just as often, however, the root of the problem lies in the lack of communication. "What demands does the boss have of his new colleagues, what does he expect from the employees - such topics are usually not addressed," says Hans-Peter Machwürth, management consultant.

It also plays a role where the "new" boss comes from. "If it comes from within, a reputation often precedes it - if it comes from outside, there can be friction with the corporate culture," says Machwürth. New manners would be understood as the exercise of power. That alone can turn a normal employee into a nag. If the manners are clarified beforehand in an open conversation, the problem may solve itself.

In general, the discussions with the employees are the most important thing. "A boss has to be interested in people," advises Machwürth. "If the employee in question has been in the same position for nine years, then you can understand that he is dissatisfied." The only way to eliminate this is to find new tasks together with the employee. "I can only grab someone if I can offer them something. But if I don't know, I have no chance," says Machwürth. "As such, the employee is not lazy or incompetent, he has become that way at some point," he adds.

But only very few executives communicated extensively with their employees, says the coach. "For many decision-makers, the employee is just a functionary. Dealing with colleagues and exchanging ideas privately is a high hurdle," says Machwürth. That costs time - but taking this time is what characterizes a good manager.

Defiant behavior out of fear

Machwürth himself experienced how much such conversations can make a difference: "In a team where we developed a team because of a new manager, one employee turned out to be difficult," he explains. All logistics employees were responsible for one country each and they were supposed to represent each other during vacation or illness.

"But a colleague refused to share his knowledge - so a vacation replacement or in the event of illness was impossible," says Machwürth. It was simply indispensable - but also problematic as a result. It was only after many one-on-one discussions that it emerged that the employee was simply afraid of losing his job if it was not indispensable. Only when he was no longer afraid did he pass on his knowledge of contacts, orders and the like.

But even this leadership behavior does not always work. Where communication does not find fertile ground, a small-scale management style is needed. "That takes a lot of time, but only if the boss works closely with the employee does the knowledge transfer take place, for example," explains Machwürth.

If none of this helps, the manager has to act. "Bosses tend to put up with it for too long when an employee doesn't fit in well or simply doesn't perform well," says Kraus. "That can go on for decades." Doing nothing is understandable: if you finally want to act, the works council intervenes or another manager intervenes. And that is by far not all: "There is also the risk that the relationship will be reversed if you make it public. Then it is said," You lead him badly ", and the difficult employee becomes a bad boss" says Kraus. But accepting the wrongdoing - as understandable as it is - is exactly the wrong way to go.

Beware of the lazy - risk of contagion!

This type of low performer can be very dangerous, says Kraus. "That infects the whole team. The other employees then ask themselves why they plow so much when it obviously also works not to work," explains Kraus. Decision-makers often underestimated the signal effect that ignoring has on employees. Machwürth can only agree: "Every department knows where the top performers are," he says. "A team is often grateful when a boss takes the old system apart." But doing nothing could even affect the entire company, warns Kraus.

  1. Moderate conflicts between employees
    Where people work together, conflicts are inevitable. You can find out how managers should behave here:
  2. Step 1: Clarify the goal
    Explain to the conflicting parties what conflict moderation is all about: resolving the conflict. However, not in the form that, as in therapy, all emotions and experiences in the past are dealt with; not even in such a way that, as is often the case in companies, the conflict is ignored or covered by formal regulations. No, the working relationship should be renegotiated and regulated in such a way that both employees can live with it and do their job better. The maxim is: No one involved has to agree to a solution that makes them a loser.
  3. Step 2: Establish rules
    Define rules for moderation with the conflict partners. For example:

  4. - Both make demands on the behavior of the other.
  5. - These are negotiated according to the principle of "give and take".
    - The agreements are made in writing.
  6. < Br> Agree with the conflicting parties as to what confidentiality may be maintained and what may be discussed with third parties. Also clarify your tasks as a moderator.
    3rd step: collect wishes and the needs behind them
  7. Once the formalities have been clarified, you can ask those involved, for example, to answer the following questions on a form:
  8. "It would help me to work more effectively if you would do the following more often / differently: .... because ... "
    " It would help me to work more effectively if you did the following less / no more: .... because ... "
  9. " Keep up the following activities that help me to work effectively : .... "
    4th step: clarify understanding

You can either copy the completed forms or hang them up so that everyone can read them. Ask the conflict partners to express each other's demands / wishes out loud in their own words. "You want me ..." Have the other person either confirm or correct the statement. As the moderator, if necessary, ask for examples of the desired behavior to ensure understanding.

5th step: look for solutions together

Here, brainstorming is the technique of choice because it enables everyone involved to optimally contribute to the solution. In addition, the search for and collection of the possible elements of a solution should be carried out free of (hasty) assessments.

6. Evaluate and negotiate solutions

After collecting the data, both parties to the conflict can use their demands to mark the proposed solutions that appear most suitable to them. Then ask the conflicting parties to make offers to one another.