How do you manage difficult employees in the workplace? I’m talking about pointing out bad behaviors without causing any animosity.
Have you ever worked with a co-worker who is very difficult with a nasty attitude?
You know that one person on your team can negatively affect the entire team. Right?
Have you ever wondered how that person landed the job in the first place?
Who is doing the interviewing? Do the people in HR know the right questions to ask to get the prospective employee to come from behind the mask and reveal who they are?
Unfortunately, even though you didn’t hire the difficult employee, you still have to deal with the issue.
The mistake of the hiring manager is now your problem. It’s not fair, but it is what it is. You have to find a way to deal with the difficult person on your team.
If you want to have a positive and productive workplace, you have to confront the negative behaviors or attitudes early before they escalate.
The good news is, you are about to access a simple formula to help stop difficult employees from ruining your work environment.
It’s a module from our intensive training on creating a positive and productive workplace. It’s been proven to be extremely effective. I call it the PSP Formula.
Let’s dive into it.
The Proven P.S.P. Formula To Manage Difficult Employees
1. A is For Praise
At the start of the conversation, begin by thanking them for showing up to have this conversation with you. It’s always good practice.
Then, praise the employee for something specific that they did on a specific occasion.
You are giving them a shot of dopamine, which is the feel-good chemical the brain releases when we are happy or excited.
You are putting them in a good mood to receive negative feedback without causing animosity.
This is very important because most people who are misbehaving tend to be defensive. When you call for the meeting, they are already thinking you are going to scold them or make them wrong.
Your praise must come across as sincere as possible. There’s always something about a person you can praise if you look hard enough.
Also, put a smile on your face. You’d be surprised how one smile can de-escalate tension and cause the person to relax.
It can be something as simple as a time they worked overtime to help with a project or a time they stepped in to help a coworker.
Praises and compliments are the absolute best way to bring someone to your side of the fence.
In fact, you can become a magnetic and highly influential person by constantly praising others.
To manage difficult employees in the workplace, you need to be an elevator. Constant elevate your team members.
Let’s get to the S in the PSP.
2. S is For Share
Now that the difficult employee is on a high, you are ready to share your not-so-pleasing feedback. You are ready to share your concerns about the negative behavior.
But, you can’t just say it without adding some cushion upfront, so it lands with care. You want to pre-frame the feedback with this phrase:
“You can do better.”
Do NOT let the simplicity of that phrase deceive you. It’s packed with psychological implications.
You say, “However, I have some concerns and I believe you can do better.”
You are implying that the employee can go from good to great. It’s not a lost case.
Then you share the behavior without making it about the person. What do I mean by that?
Well, most people would get offended the moment they feel like they are the behavior in question.
To separate the behavior from the employee, NEVER gesture toward the person while mentioning the negative behavior or anything unpleasant.
Only gesture toward the person while praising and complimenting.
Otherwise, the person’s subconscious mind will automatically associate the negative behavior with the person.
As a result, they will put their fence up and be defensive. Not only do you gesture away, you also need to break eye contact while doing it.
Right after you share your concern, say something like, “That’s not like you.” Verbally emphasize that they are not the negative behavior.
3. P Is For Praise (Again)
You want to bring back the good feelings you created at the beginning. Always end the conversation with more praises.
You want to restate the positive qualities or your appreciation. It’s your way of telling the person you are willing to support them if they are willing to cooperate with you.
You are building trust and encouraging them to work on improving their behaviors and attitudes.
Either use the same praises and compliments or you can stack more praises.
You can also repeat your appreciation for showing up. The goal is for both of you to walk away feeling this was beneficial to all.
Here Are 7 Best Practices To Keep In Mind During The Process
1. Be Clear & Specific
When addressing negative behaviors or attitudes, be specific about the issue at hand. Explain it without ambiguity.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Avoid using generalities or vague statements, as they can create doubts and confusion. That can lead to resistance and pushback.
Instead of saying “lately you have been late for work,” provide specific dates and information about when the behavior started.
This will help the employee understand what you are concerned about.
2. Listen and ask questions
The employee is not going to just agree with you and move on. They have their own reasons or concerns.
Be all ears. Listen to those reasons. You may learn something new you were not aware of. Encourage the employee to share their thoughts and listen attentively.
Ask clarifying questions to eliminate any misunderstandings. Try to understand their perspective. It’s important to remember that people will often go out of their way for you when they feel understood. They want to know you feel their pains.
Many times, negative behaviors at work can be caused by personal issues at home. Instead of assuming the issue is work related, ask questions and listen carefully.
3. Focus On The Solutions
Don’t keep rehashing the problem or talking about what’s wrong. Instead, focus on finding solutions and creating a plan for improvement.
This can include talking about potential solutions, setting specific goals, action steps, and checkpoints to track progress.
It’s important to remember not to push your own agenda on the employee. The goal is to move forward and collaborate, rather than getting stuck in a vortex of blame and criticism.
Brainstorm ideas to help the employee do better, as suggested in the beginning.
4. Offer Support & Resources
Be prepared to offer support, assistance, or resources to help them improve. Sometimes, the support can be something as simple as offering moral support.
Maybe you have a budget for training, coaching, or other resources that can help them grow and develop.
When you offer support and assistance, you give a sense that you do want them on the team. They will feel a sense of belonging.
5. Keep The Conversation Confidential
It’s important to respect the employee’s privacy and keep the conversation between the two of you. Avoid discussing what happens in the room with others, as this can create further animosity and damage trust.
If you expect an honest and straightforward conversation, tell the employee that everything discussed will remain totally confidential.
This will inspire an open and honest discussion. By the way, don’t be surprised if the employee starts sharing some sensitive information with you.
Do your best to establish some clear ground rules at the start of the conversation about confidentiality. This will make the meeting more powerful and effective.
6. Always Follow Up
If possible, volunteer to be an accountability partner for the person as part of your support. Help them track progress on how they are improving. That will show your commitment to their success.
Keep your word and follow up. You might even schedule some dates on the calendar to follow up. It’s like getting the employee to have you as their coach or mentor.
7. Keep Excellent Records
You have to document everything when you are called to manage difficult employees. This can be extremely important if the employee’s behavior is causing problems within the team or is negatively impacting the company’s productivity.
Your last resort later might be to terminate or discipline the toxic employee. Without good records, you will have a tough time making your case. You want to be able to show the steps you took to remedy the situation.
That’s to protect yourself and the company at the same time. Sure, you want to help the employee. But don’t be naive either. Don’t let it be your words against theirs.
What You Need To Be Aware Of As You Are Applying The Formula On How To Manage Difficult Employees
If you truly want to manage difficult employees in the workplace, use this strategy exactly as I explained it.
However, don’t let your mind play tricks on you by thinking this is manipulation. It’s called influence. Manipulation is when our intention is harmful.
The fact is, we have been using psychological triggers on each other for thousands of years.
We use all kinds of tricks to convince and persuade each other. What most people call manipulation is nothing but the art of communication.
Another concern is thinking that people will catch us in the act. That’s only if we don’t apply the strategy with honesty and sincerity.
For example, let’s say your spouse wants to go out to eat, but you don’t feel like it. I bet they are going to find a way to persuade you. You know it’s happening, but you still go along with it.
Besides, with practice, you will become a natural at it, just like you are a natural at convincing your kids to clean their room.
Just because you are aware of a strategy doesn’t mean everyone has the same awareness.
All of us, myself included, have been persuaded to do something, even though we know or teach the strategies. It’s because our brain is evolutionarily programmed that way.
This formula will empower you to manage difficult employees without aggravation and frustration. As a result, you will have a more positive work environment. Your team members will be happier. Productivity will go up.