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Managing the unmanageable: how to lead challenging employees

Thtwo businessmen arguingey show up everywhere so there’s no doubt that if you manage people, at some point in your career you’ll end up managing a challenging employee who demands lots of your attention. The implications can be huge as very quickly they can negatively impact an entire team’s performance and morale. It’s never easy, so what’s the best way to deal with one of these common workplace characters who can create endless headaches and disruption?

Recently to great critical acclaim, professional development speaker Philip Cripps led an engaging and motivating mia educational session on ‘Managing Challenging Employees’. As many provided feedback that they found the session really useful, we thought we’d share some of the highlights and advice here:

Firstly, you need to identify the causes behind the challenging behaviour and ask:

1.       As their manager are you having difficulty understanding their point of view or perspective? Try to identify what you are doing that contributes to making them being challenging.

2.       Internal factors – are there any health factors or is anything affecting them emotionally?

3.       External factors – are family and friends influencing them?

4.       Personality – to determine their personality you need clear communication with their former employer and not rely solely on the generic lines found on their CV.

5.       Are they the wrong person for the job or is it the wrong job for the person? You have to identify what people like doing.

6.       Is it the work environment?

7.       Are you a ‘What’ or a ‘How’ manager?

8.       Is the employee unclear of his/her responsibilities and the basis upon which their performance will be assessed?

9.       Are you discovering and responding to each team members’ ambitions or aspirations?

10.   Is there a lack of recognition?

Solutions to managing challenging employees:

1.       Take an interest in your team as people first and employees second.

2.       Replace statements with structured questions. Statements often create confrontation whereas questions can stimulate communication.

3.       Eliminate the ‘why’ word from your vocabulary. ‘Why’ challenges them, instead adopt ‘how’.

4.       Remove the phrase ‘Yes, but…’ and replace it with ‘Yes, and…’

5.       Always explain why you want something done.

6.       Tune into your team members’ favourite station (WIIFM) What’s in it for me?

7.       Encourage your team member to question constructively what, how, when and why the actions are taken within your company/department.

8.       Listen to people, don’t just hear what they say.

9.       Give your team members regular constructive feedback.

10.   Walk the talk – make sure you also follow the rules you teach.

11.   Identify what demotivates your team members before you consider how to motivate that person.

12.   Don’t discuss your team member’s challenging behaviour. Instead, discuss the effects it has on his/her performance and upon other people.

13.   Use the ‘what would you do if you were me?’ question.

14.   Look at what you have in common and not what divides you.

15.   Document your discussions and the agreements you reach, or do not reach.

16.   Set standards and be consistent.

17.   Smile. Treat every challenge as an opportunity upon which to capitalise, not an obstacle to overcome.

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