Dealing with Difficult Employees

Dealing with Difficult Employees

Becoming a boss may be the dream of many young adults but leading a team isn’t always peaches and cream (or, in the case of millennials, a double shot of espresso and almond milk). No matter where you work or how nice you may be, you’re bound to end up dealing with difficult employees. In fact, researchers have shown that 60-80 percent of issues in the workplace stem from strained employer-employee relationships. Not only that, the added stress can wreak havoc on your brain’s ability to reason and remember, which can negatively affect productivity. Before you blow your top or consider throwing in the towel, prepare yourself by learning useful tips from Amy Cooper Hakim and Murial Solomon detailed in dealing with difficult employees.

Dealing with Difficult Employees:


An Ambusher is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They come at you with an attack that is often covered up with jokes. While these jabs may come off as funny at first, it’s important to demand respect from your team members. Welcome criticisms in a calm manner while letting your employee know that you won’t permit them to put you down. Ask for clarification of the issues they are having in private. Then, without getting defensive, respond using facts.


Hotheads are notorious for being workplace instigators. They tend to be the one who thrives off of getting other employees involved in arguments. Rather than confronting the hothead, give them time to simmer down. Then approach them by discussing why they’re feeling angry. Your goal is to listen to them and work with them to come up with a resolution. Never get in the middle and take sides; try to be as objective as possible. Once you get to the root of the problem, you can make operational changes or encourage better teamwork depending on the issue.


If you come face-to-face with a Revenger, you’ll know because they’ll set out to get you back for something that made them feel cheated or mistreated. They may have simply taken something you said or did out of context, which can lead to resentment and hostility. Also, they often resist change. Put their grudges at bay but clearing up the misconceptions, making them feel important, showing appreciation for their work, and involve them in the planning stages when changes are going to take place.


When an associate doesn’t get their way, they often feel that their only recourse is to threaten to quit. Quitters may jump ship leaving you wondering what happened. Sometimes your leadership style can rub employees the wrong way and cause them to be irritated. Make sure that their voices are being heard and that their needs are being met. Sometimes all it takes is recognizing their input, supporting a work-life balance, or providing them with sufficient benefits.

As a new or seasoned leader, you may find that dealing with difficult employees makes for a less than desirable working environment. According to Amy Cooper Hakim, a psychologist with expertise in relationships between employers and employees, “We need to take emotion out of workplace issues.” In being a better leader, it also helps to have good listening skills.

Chris Craddock

As the leader of Projections' production team, Chris loves to inspire others to perform at the highest levels! From the most challenging leadership opportunities to brainstorming the latest topics leaders want to learn about, Chris provides clear direction and vision.