How to Deal with Difficult but Valuable Employees

How to Deal with Difficult but Valuable Employees

To retain or not to retain…that guy drives me crazy . . . but I’d hate to live without him.

He keeps me up at night. But our office wouldn’t be as successful without him.

Most managers, at some point in their careers, will say–or at least think–a variation of the statement above. You’re bound to have that one person on your staff who requires a bit more maintenance than the majority of your employees. Now, if this person were just difficult and didn’t contribute to the success of your company, you’d send him on his not-so-merry way. You have no reason to keep a problematic person around who doesn’t deliver results. But the conundrum is that your tough nut is quite valuable to the bottom line. So what can you do?

Though every situation is different, a deft touch and the following strategies will help you balance the scales:

  • Be Transparent – Have frequent meetings with your difficult employee and lay your cards on the table. Let this person know that while you appreciate his effort and the success he brings to the company, his tactics do impact the rest of the staff. To ensure everything is on the level, make sure you have an HR person present to document the discussion.
  • Set Measures – Establish a game plan when you meet with this employee. Bring a list of the precise issues that are affecting morale and culture, and then offer solutions and measurements to work toward. You’re not asking this person to change who he is – mavericks have value – but you are asking him to be considerate of how his actions affect others.
  • Avoid Emotions – Remember, you want to maintain office harmony. You’re not there to take sides or create drama. Your goal is to set expectations and be considerate of every member of your staff. At the same time, you want to be encouraging because the employee does deliver success.
  • Establish a Breaking Point – People don’t change overnight, so what you’re asking of your difficult employee may, ultimately, not be possible. As a manager, you need to determine when the cost-benefit ratio of having this person around reaches the unsalvageable. You may not like the idea of letting him go, but for the long-term results of your company, it may be necessary. Keep in mind the bigger picture of employee retention–for all your team–and what the impact of the thorn is in their sides.

It may also come down to discovering exactly what motivates your challenging employee–both to irritate and to improve. What kind of carrots can you offer him?

Have you had to deal with a valuable but difficult employee? How did you handle it? Are you struggling with a similar situation now? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *