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10 Ways to Deal with Difficult Employees (Short of Murder)


It doesn't matter if you are the manager of a sandwich shop or chief executive of a Fortune 500 company, you may find yourself in a workplace environment with difficult employees. But there's no reason to fire off a resignation letter just because you have to work alongside or for difficult employees. In many cases, you can avoid confrontation, and even foster a good working relationship with the most difficult people at any company.

Kill them with kindness. Difficult employees are often abrupt and curt in conversation, and sometimes downright rude and nasty. Despite these negative personality traits, try to be kind and polite in all encounters with difficult employees, especially if they rank higher than you in the company hierarchy. You can even make it a game with yourself, to see how helpful and nice you can, despite their hostile face. Eventually, their grumpy façade may lighten up, when they find you consistently pleasant to encounter.

Always be honest. The old saying that truth shall prevail works well when dealing with difficult employees. In fact, if you are honest with people, even the most rude and obnoxious people can't fault you for telling the truth. Even if it means you have to admit a mistake, be up front with difficult coworkers in order to maintain integrity in their eyes.

Go the extra mile. While you don't have to cater to difficult employees, it's wise to show your hard work and efforts to these people. If you don't slack off, they will have nothing to criticize.

Avoid confrontation. Whether it's your evil boss or nasty subordinate, difficult employees often are "difficult" because they are confrontational. To avoid situations where a disagreement will arise, try to quell an argument before it can escalate. For example, if you hear a difficult employee is questioning some sort of company protocol, calmly explain the procedure in a very polite and pleasant way. Even better: ignore it, if you can pretend to be out of earshot.

Stay calm. Difficult employees often like to push their bosses' or coworkers' buttons. For this reason, you always need to keep your cool, and remain calm when dealing with difficult employees. In fact, try to never raise your voice - or even an eyebrow - and this will set the tone for any workplace discussion.

Illustrate how to compromise. Often, difficult employees simply want to get their way on a workplace issue or project. For this reason, you have to offer opportunities for compromise to ease the difficult employee's ability to bully or demand to get his or her way.

Never say no. Difficult employees never want to be told they are wrong or that they can't do something. Instead, offer alternatives. For example, if a difficult employee wants to present a protocol to a client in a certain way, say, "I like your idea. What if we tweak it this way?" Tout the difficult employee's efforts and be clear you want to improve on his or her already good idea.

Don't back down. While you don't want to be bullied by difficult employees, you also need to command respect. Always be diplomatic, but firm. Defend yourself, but never raise your voice a decibel. Simply put: don't let them treat you in a disrespectful manner.

Don't hold a grudge. If you have found yourself in a heated confrontation with a difficult employee, once it's over, move on. There is no need to hold a workplace grudge. Often, there will be stressful situations in any workplace environment, but they have to be dealt with. Soon after a resolution is reached, everyone must move on to the task at hand to keep order and stress levels low in a workplace.

Show you're a team player. When a difficult employee sees you are a team player who fosters the advancement of the group and not just yourself, he or she will likely ease up on the personality traits that make the person difficult. In turn, that person will be more likely to try to be a team player as well, following your example.

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