In the hiring process, every business does its best to make a good hire. Yet, sometimes a difficult one gets through. Regardless, making the best of the situation comes with the territory of management and under your responsibilities as manager. Here are some guidelines for managing the unmanageable:
Is it them or you? Before you approach an unruly employee, determine if you are the cause of the problem. Does your leadership style not work for them? Do they feel like you are not challenging them? Determine this by asking for feedback from your team. What can you do better? How can you help them? It will become clear if you are the problem or the source lies elsewhere.
Focus on one improvement at a time: Does the employee have a laundry list of bad behaviours? Rome was not built in a day, but you can build it brick by brick, cobble by cobble. Start with the major concerns and work your way toward the smaller ones.
Write down what needs to be worked on: It is hard for an employee to make changes if they are not aware that there is a problem. Start with two verbal and then progress to written warnings. While these are labelled ‘warnings’ from an HR perspective, you are actually getting the employee to look at their problem and decide what to do about it.
Discuss and set expectations early on; discipline if necessary: Let them know what is acceptable, what is not, and what you are prepared to do about it. Two things are key here:
consistency and follow through. If you do not do what you say you will, you can expect the behaviour to not only not change but likely get worse.
Have an open door: For any employee trying to make changes, it can be tough and even emotional. Keeping communication open is crucial for building an employee’s confidence and keeping them on the right track.
Know when to cut your losses: Despite your best efforts, you cannot transform every difficult employee from a frog into a prince. If you are investing all time and energy and yet do not see any progress, put your foot down. Refer to the written policies of the company regarding the firing of an employee and follow them.
In sum, challenging employees are just that — challenging. By following few guidelines to identify the problem, build confidence, and establish guidelines, you will see changes.