How To Deal With Difficult Employees

Today, I wanted to spend a little time talking about difficulties in the workplace, especially when it comes to managing employees.

I sat down with a couple of my favorite clients recently and the topic of dealing with a difficult employee came up. As managers and leaders, it’s something we’re all faced with from time to time, and at Reality-Based Leadership, we know how to coach you through those different situations.

Here is one such example:

The problem: A team member constantly resists. Eventually, they get it done — but not without a struggle.

My advice: Whenever you have people disrupting the status quo, you have to ask them: “At what cost?”

Ask yourself and your team member what the cost of this current behavior is, then, check their math against yours. If you know somebody is prone to resistance at first but always eventually comes around, say, “Good, that’s great, but let’s make sure it’s worth it.” What’s the cost of this current behavior to you and the team?

The cost is that it does hold the team up, making you spend extra time each and every time it comes up. So, how many hours extra are we talking, exactly?

Really quantify the cost of this wasted time.

If you can get that person to do the math with you, they’ll start to see where you’re coming from. In my experience, most people go “Oh, I never thought about it like that.” It’s often a new way of thinking for them.

Ask the employee: what are one or two things you can do to reduce those wasted hours? If they can’t develop, that’s a fixed cost that you may not always be able to afford.

Follow up question: what if the employee has no self-awareness?

If you’re looking for somebody to increase in accountability or awareness, the only way I know is by passing the ego through self-reflection.

It’s the ego’s job to keep us pretty unaware about our impact on others, so we can keep doing this bad math: “It’s not that bad. I don’t cost that much. I don’t inconvenience that many people.”

“Well, let me introduce you to reality.”

Step 1: Get visual.

The first thing I do is I get visual with people:

“Let’s do some math. You perform average, you’re not always ready for what’s next (so that’s below average), and your drama quotient is very high. And since that’s a major player here, it doesn’t seem like you understand your expense. I’ve drawn the math out. What do you think about that? Where do you agree or disagree?”

Then, it’s important to realize that as long as you’re the one doing all the work, you’re giving that person an opening to remain unaware. So, what I like to do for folks is I give an assignment for self-reflection.

Step 2: Give an assignment.

Have them think of 3 ways they impact others negatively with their behavior. It gets them self-reflecting, and self-reflection is the key ingredient in accountability.

You’ve got to get people self-reflecting because that’s where they can bypass their ego that’s saying “Not me! I’m misunderstood. I’m the victim.” It’s also just a way of saying “Don’t take my word for it. Ask you.”

For more on accountability and leadership, follow along with me on YouTube.

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