Ask the HR Department: How do I deal with a difficult employee?


By HR and health & safety consultancy Peninsula Canada

One of the toughest challenges managers in leadership positions struggle with is how to handle difficult employees. It’s frustrating when an employee’s troublesome behaviour and negative attitude start to influence others, dragging down their productivity too.

Dealing with difficult employees is no walk in the park, but it’s crucial to tackle the issue head-on and as soon as possible to keep the damage to a minimum. Here are some steps employers can take to handle a difficult employee:

Pinpoint the problem. Take the time to identify the exact behaviour or performance issue that’s causing the difficulty. Is it a matter of attitude, work quality, or perhaps something else altogether? By clearly defining the problem at hand, employers will be better equipped to find a suitable solution.

Open up the lines of communication. Set up one-on-one meetings with the employee to have an open discussion about your concerns. It’s important to document the discussion, noting down the date, time, and all the important details of the conversation.

Listen. Give the employee an opportunity to express their perspective and any challenges they may be facing. Listen actively and empathetically, encouraging open communication.

Provide feedback and expectations. Clearly articulate your expectations for behaviour, performance, and improvement. Offer constructive feedback, focusing on specific actions and suggesting ways to rectify the situation.

Offer support and resources. Determine if the employee requires any additional support, such as training, mentoring, or counselling. Provide access to resources that can help them overcome challenges and improve their skills.

Monitor and follow-up. Regularly check in with the employee to monitor their progress. Provide ongoing feedback and support as needed. If the issues persist or worsen, consider implementing a performance improvement plan (PIP) with specific targets and consequences if improvement is not achieved.

Peninsula is a trusted HR and health & safety advisory company, serving over 6,000 small businesses across Canada. Clients are supported with ongoing updates of their workplace documentation and policies as legislation changes. Additionally, clients benefit from access to our 24/7 employer HR and OHS advice line and coverage on legal through our Peninsula Protect service promise.