Managing a Difficult Employee


Difficult employees come in all forms but none are so frustrating as the brilliant employee who is impossible to work with. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings famously said, “Do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high.” And we agree. Such an employee creates a conundrum for managers, but learning to draw out their dark side will give you a better shot at holding onto the valuable member while keeping other valuable members of your team from heading for the hills.

  1. Don’t be flexible with negative attitudes:

It is important to kill the negativity weed before it begins to damage the produce of a hard-working team. Unfortunately, the most brilliant and helpful employee, when spreading negativity, can cause real problems. Managers should recognize that even something as petty as gossip or arrogance or negative banter can affect job performance across a company. Regardless of how vital an employee is to the project/company etc, the damage done by a brilliant but difficult employee has contagious and lasting effects.

  1. Be Open. Be Honest:

Not being willing to openly and honestly call the employee out on their destructive behavior is the same as condoning. Respectfully addressing the specific behaviors that are alienating other employees or negatively affecting daily work will grant the employee a clear standard of behavioral expectations. Remind the employee why his behavior and attitude matters and how it has been detrimental. This type of honesty shows respect to the employees who are struggling with the difficult party and it demonstrates an atmosphere of respect that you maintain in your workplace to the person you are addressing.

  1. Give Positive Reinforcement:

When your employee heeds your warning/council, make note of it and address him as directly as you did when reprimanding. Specific, positive reinforcement goes much further than negative attention and it can be as contagious as the negativity you are trying to rid from your team. It is imperative that you be ready and willing to recognize someone’s humility to take negative feedback and to adjust behavior according to your business standards; this will show respect and will warrant respect, changing the entire ambience of a previously sour situation.

  1. Be Willing to bid Adieu:

After directly calling your difficult employee to the floor, if he or she refuses to be respectful or get along with co-workers, it is best for everyone to let that employee go. Someone who doesn’t respond to feedback and who isn’t a team-player is simply someone who shouldn’t be on a team. Make room for someone who is ready and willing to benefit your team.

by Adam Vega