Patience: The Key to Leading Difficult People

May 4, 2023

Overview: Difficult employees can sabotage organizational performances and undermine leaders’ authority. Leadership coaching can help leaders devise ways to deal with problem employees and solutions that allow them to avoid employment termination. Management is almost always preferable to termination and replacement.   

Difficult employees come in all shapes and sizes. Typical problem employees are:

  • Know-it-alls who have strong opinions about everything and never admit to being wrong. 
  • Time wasters who are extremely generous with company time. These employees are always among the first to go on lunch breaks and among the last to return to work. 
  • Bashful employees who never voice their opinions and don’t engage with anything the organizations do.
  • Complainers that always find reasons why things can’t be done. Instead of searching for solutions, they spend time searching for excuses.
  • Bullies that intimidate co-workers and don’t shy away from brutally criticizing superiors to undermine their authority.

To handle such employees, leaders should muster the patience to peel back the façades they display and get to the roots of their disruptive behaviors.

Patience is the virtue that allows leaders to understand the behaviors of employees and address problematic aspects instead of taking the easy way out and summarily firing the employees.

High employee turnover is a negative for organizations. Leadership coaching encourages leaders to learn to communicate with difficult people and bring out the best in them. Granted, in some cases, some of these difficult employees are incorrigible and impossible to engage, leaving their employers no choice but to part ways with them.

Understanding Difficult Employees

Getting to know employees allows leaders to take advantage of individual strengths while addressing weaknesses. From the perspective of executive coaching, finding out what difficult employees fear, how they think, and what makes them do what they do should be a leader’s top priorities.

Leadership coaching professionals don’t assume. They look for problems, identify leadership gaps, and find solutions. Capable leaders approach the difficult employee problem on similar terms.

Engaging in dialog with difficult employees can shed light on several issues, allowing leaders to make informed decisions. By talking to employees, leaders can learn:

  • Whether they’re aware of the impacts of their behavior
  • Whether their personal lives are to blame for the toxic fallout
  • Whether they’re in the wrong roles and thus lash out due to frustration

Depending on what they find out, leaders can manage and help difficult employees by:

  • Helping them redefine their careers by working with them to develop specific goals and plans in line with their organizations.
  • Calmly and tactfully helping them become aware of the toxicity of their behaviors by providing concrete examples.
  • Giving them the resources they need to resolve their personal conflicts.
Reaching a hand out for support.
Problem behavior is sometimes a cry for help.

Executive coaching is adamant leaders never assume the reasons behind employees’ behaviors. By doing so, they cut offenders undeserved slack while failing to deal with specific problems.

Devising Actionable Solutions

Once they get to the root of the problems, leaders can define actionable steps that allow problem employees to alter their behaviors and improve their performances. While the specifics of these steps depend on the organizations and circumstances, leaders should be aware the improvements must be:

  • Helpful
  • Realistically achievable
  • Measurable
  • Objective

Some examples of potential solutions are:

Every case requires a unique and highly-individualized solution. Leaders can’t and shouldn’t rely on one-size-fits-all approaches.

Assessing and Reassessing Progress

As the final step of their problem-employee management solutions, leaders should specify clear goals and time frames for the improvements they expect from difficult employees. Knowing the expectations and the roadmaps for improvement, it’s now up to the employees to take the necessary steps.

Leaders should never hurry to terminate people’s employment in organizations. Business coaching understands and dislikes the costs of hiring, onboarding, and training new employees. Problem employee management is almost always preferable to termination.

Contact us to learn more about how you can join the IL Movement as a coach or how you can benefit from partnering with us to bring IL Solutions to you and your organization.

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