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Dealing With Difficult Employees


It seems like we are always hearing about a difficult employee or a complaint about a demanding manager. This can really inhibit how successful the team is working together.  Can you offer some suggestions on how to effectively deal with these difficult people?


We all have people in our lives who are more challenging to work with than others. There is no one right way to deal with these types of people, but here are some suggestions that can be used depending on the individual circumstances:

  • Remain calm and be respectful – This may sound obvious, but it’s easier said than done; getting worked up serves no purpose. Be respectful and focus on the issue at hand. Keep emotions out of it. If the individual gets personal or derogatory, acknowledge that they are upset and redirect back to the issue at hand.
  • Empathize and get detail – For the demanding person, show them you understand what they are saying, and show you want to work with them.
  • Share your perspective – Talk about what you CAN do. Don’t make excuses, but when appropriate, let them know what possible obstacles you expect to encounter in trying to meet their request.
  • Offer Options – You may not be able to meet the demand exactly, but offer what you can do. Show how this alternative can meet their needs.
  • Escalate if needed – Request that a difficult person allow you the opportunity to resolve the problem. Realize sometimes that escalation is the best solution.
  • Preserve the relationship – Keep the big picture in mind. As easy as it may sound to swear you will never deal with that person again, that may not be realistic.
  • Self examination – Sometimes we have to ask, “Am I the problem?” Take a close look at the situation and ask “Why am I perceiving this person as difficult and demanding?” Could it be that they are just inconvenient for me?

A key underlying theme in all of these tips is solid communication and listening. Employing these skills will help get to the root of the problem. There is no one-size-fits-all method of dealing with challenging people in the workplace. Hopefully these tips can guide you to a positive outcome.

One of the most difficult aspects of human resources management is dealing with people. Are you getting inundated with complaints about managers or employees that take you away from more pressing matters? Are you looking for an on-going solution to combat these issues? Strategic HR has years of experience in employment relations. Visit our Employee Relations page to learn how we can help you resolve some of your toughest ER problems.