With difficult employees, you have two obvious problems – the impacts on your organization and the behavior of the individuals. But you can learn to love your job as a manager of difficult employees.

If it were so easy to manage difficult people, then everybody would be doing it. But the simple fact is – not all employees are collaborative, diligent, hardworking, skilled, and great at listening.

If you’ve been in management long, you know that some employees are collaborative but others aren’t. Some are diligent; some aren’t diligent. Some work hard but others don’t work hard. Some employees have talent, but others have mediocre skills.

Even though talent is desirable, it means nothing if employees don’t have an enthusiastic attitude.

A company filled with employees with great attitudes will ultimately triumph over businesses that have employees who only possess talent.

Otherwise, it’s difficult to manage people who are hard to manage.

To manage difficult people, here are seven tactics:

1. Accept the concept that you have a difficult job

Once you accept the notion that management is difficult, you’ll make best use of your time. Approach your job with the best mindset for management – treat it as an adventure. Think positively.

2. Develop EI as a strength

For optimal performance, there’s one key trait that ideally encompasses all the skills – emotional intelligence (EI). That means they have great attitudes because they listen and are trainable.

Yes, employees with a strong EI quotient are usually more collaborative, diligent, hardworking and skilled. They have motivation and they can be motivated to even higher performance.

Unfortunately, many employees don’t have enough EI. To solve the dilemma, it behooves managers to develop their own EI.

EI is important for you as a manager in communication and leadership. A person who has EI is able to evaluate, understand, and control emotions. (It’s possible for managers to grow their personal EI for leadership success.)

In turn, this will make it possible to manage the entire group of employees. Personalities in the workplace are variable, which means each person must be managed individually.

3. Don’t be a victim with a fight or flight syndrome

Keep your cool. Analyze each problem employee objectively – to develop a constructive, even-handed approach. Don’t let your ego get in the way.

Don’t just shut down conversations. Before you dismiss an employee’s complaints, determine if the person has a valid point.

Conversely, don’t procrastinate if you have employee issues. Toxic employees warrant your best coaching tactics.

So, model good behavior.  Be a good example – a positive role model. Do your best to communicate.

Be careful how you communicate when you’re aggravated, overworked or stressed. Develop your attributes for effective communication.

Use positive body language, and keep confidences.

4. Use your EI to empathize

Mind your biases. For instance, if you’re a man, would you perceive an employee’s comment as grousing if it was made by a woman? Or would you dismiss it if it was someone from a different generation or color?

Sometimes there are valid reasons why a person is hard to manage. Perhaps the individual has family issues at home.

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”


Sometimes managers aren’t efficient in managing difficult people. Consider your management approach. Are you using best practices or are you a catalyst for negativity? Are you micromanaging?

Either way, look at the big picture – develop insights into what the causes are.

5. For management dilemmas, get some expertise

Don’t forget to seek guidance. You’ll need to get an objective opinion from someone who has been successful in managing difficult personalities. This is the person to whom to vent.

Your first option is to seek a mentor outside your company. Someone who is savvy but in whom you trust to keep your conversations confidential.

If you’re an employee of the company, then, it’s also suggested that you discuss your situation with a reliable human resources person or your manager.

6. Keep an open door

Encourage your employees to come to you first. Make certain that negative feedback doesn’t become adversarial. By encouraging employees to approach you, you’re more likely to avert malicious gossip or a morale issue in your workplace.

However, take care to be a manager – not a cozy friend. Be an active listener. Remember you might not be in a position to solve an issue right away. Give it some thought. And perhaps discuss it with your mentor.

7. Understand the difference between a thoughtful employee and a chronic complainer 

Chances are a chronic complainer – whether it be about co-workers or company policy – is not a fit for your organization.

Know when to draw the line on such employees. Never threaten or react with anger. Reflect on the person. Decide on what’s best for your organization as well as the individual.

For progress, a business needs human interaction for ideas and innovation. Sometimes, argument, debate and conflict prove to be productive catalysts for high performance. But when it isn’t you must manage conflict for high performance.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related management tips:

HR: Is it Time to Rethink Your Marijuana-Testing Policy? — For HR departments, it was once-unthinkable: Deleting Marijuana from the list of drugs in workplace drug-testing programs. But should you? And what should you do about your handbook policies?

Are You Guilty of Micromanaging? Here’s How to Stop — Micromanagement is a ramification of ignoring best practices in management. People who micromanage lose maximum efficiency, productivity and teamwork – in other words, optimal profitability.

6 Tips to Get Good Employee Ideas, not Whining — Do you have employees who contribute positive ideas? Or do you have employees who always seem to whine? Aimless complaining is a symptom of problems in teamwork, morale, negativity and/or productivity. Here are six management strategies.

18 Leadership Strategies to Earn Employee Respect — Here are 18 strategies to profit from good labor relations, and to leverage the perspective of employees – your company’s human capital.

Human Resources: 12 Errors to Avoid in Evaluations — How should you properly evaluate employees? Make sure you are careful to avoid errors in evaluations. Naturally, you want to praise good performance and discourage bad. What are the best ways? Here’s how to avoid making those classic mistakes.

Advice for Men: How to Manage Women Employees — You must exercise due diligence to motivate talented employees and retain them for an efficient and productive workplace. But many male managers unwittingly mismanage their female employees.

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”



Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.