How to Deal with Difficult Employees

Businessman Stuck in a JarRunning a business is not always easy. There are many different nuts and bolts that come along with this; however, one of the most important elements of running a business is having the right employees.

Employees are invaluable and they can ultimately make or break your business. This is why having the proper information regarding how to appropriately interact with your employees is so critical. This is important, whether you’ve been in business for five months or five years.

five ways to deal with difficult employees

In the best of worlds, your employees would never give you any trouble and would always perform their duties admirably. However, this is not how things always work. At one point or another, if you own a business, you will encounter difficult employees.

Therefore, the following five ways to deal with employees who turn out to be difficult are essential for your business.

1. Get to the bottom of the problem

When an employee is proving to be difficult, on one level or another, there’s a problem at hand. The problem could boil down to scheduling disagreements, interactions with customers, overall productivity, or even coworker clashes. Nevertheless, whatever the case may be, getting to the bottom of the problem is crucial.

Once the problem with a difficult employee is pinpointed, solutions can be implemented. There may even be a series of possible solutions to get things back on track. Whenever faced with a difficult employee, uncovering the underlying issue is vital before any other steps can be taken.

2. create structure for your staffers

In the workplace and in business, a lack of structure can engender all sorts of difficulties. Without structure, employees may have confusion over how or even when to do their jobs. This can lead to all sorts of issues that ultimately bring down your business altogether.

To create the proper structure for employees, look into programs such as attendance policies, training curriculums, etc. You may also find it helpful for your staff to use workplace apps like Slack, Trello, etc. Whatever you decide, making sure that all your employees are on the right page can be effective in weeding out difficulties.

3. Have a conversation

Sometimes, the best solution to dealing with difficult employees is sitting down and having a conversation with them. Taking this course of action comes with several benefits. For starters, it allows for one on one time; secondly, you are able to hear from the employee themselves what they believe is their source of frustration in the workplace.

A conversation with difficult employees can reveal a lot of information. It can also let you know whether these staffers should remain part of the team, or if you should part ways with them. No matter the outcome of a conversation with a difficult employee, you’ll likely leave the talk knowing more than you did beforehand.

4. Get feedback from your customers

When it comes to dealing with difficult employees, many business owners don’t think about customer feedback. However, this can be a vital tool, particularly when your employees are responsible for interacting with your customers.

Sometimes, your customers may have unique insights or perspectives that you wouldn’t think of. Hearing what your customers have to say about a difficult employee can furthermore let you know the impact this employee is having on the business as a whole. This is a vital bit of information to be mindful of, especially since customers are the lifeblood of any business.

Some great ways to get customer feedback can be putting together questionnaires and customer surveys, or even having face-to-face conversations with customers regarding their experiences with your business.

5. implement disciplinary procedures

When an employee consistently causes problems, even after you’ve taken the aforementioned steps, disciplinary procedures are the next best option.

Having the right information and documents of problems caused by difficult employees is vital. Afterward, you can then begin to assess the necessary discipline. Some key employee discipline measures can include verbal warnings, written warnings, or even termination from the business altogether.

Ultimately, the judgment call of the appropriate disciplinary measures rests in your hands. No two situations with difficult employees are exactly the same; however, you don’t want difficult employees to begin dragging down your business.


Dealing with difficult employees is rarely an easy feat. With that said, the more time you spend in business, the more experience you’ll gain. In many cases, experience is an invaluable asset, even when it comes to handling difficult staff members.

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About the Author:  Raya is the CEO and co-founder of ezClocker, a time tracking and scheduling software for small businesses. She is passionate about customers and building products that change the way people run their businesses. She is also a big supporter of the startup community and helping people achieve her dreams.

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