How to Manage a Nightmare Employee

Manager and team

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Taylor Tobin1.84k
May 19, 2024 at 4:42AM UTC

If you’re a top performer at work, it’s entirely possible that your company will choose to reward you by eventually promoting you into a management position. These roles come with higher paychecks and increased responsibility, which often prove appealing and valuable to ambitious workers with a strong desire for growth.

But, management positions also require a set of skills that aren’t always prioritized in other professional roles, which can make the adjustment period both long and challenging. New managers must learn how to encourage their reports to produce top-quality work without letting their own projects fall by the wayside. It’s a tricky balance, and it often takes time, effort and focus to successfully achieve.

But if you need some quick tips on how to manage others, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for guidance on how to build and apply management confidence, how to supervise employees with more experience than you and how to handle “difficult” and resistant employees.

4 effective management tips

Of course, management strategies vary depending on circumstances; tactics that will prove useful for managing one type of employee pool may not work with an entirely different group. However, keeping these tips in mind will help direct you on the right path for your work situation.

1. Make sure you thoroughly understand the company culture

Whether you’re new to the company or have worked there for a while in a more junior role, you as a manager must have a working knowledge of the culture surrounding the workplace. What communication style is most efficient? Do employees enjoy and expect social gatherings? What’s the typical structure for raises and promotions? This information gives you a fuller view of your position and the managerial actions that make the most sense for your company, therefore poising you for a well-informed and productive run as a team leader.

2. Establish yourself as an open communicator.

Employees in all industries tend to perform better when they’re able to dialogue with their supervisors. Managers who intimidate their reports might get short-term results, but they'll do so at the cost of worker satisfaction, which can ultimately compromise the company’s bottom line. If your employees feel that they can comfortably express concerns to you and perceive you as a good listener who takes their feedback seriously, then you’ll find it easier to gain high-quality work from your team.

3. Encourage teamwork.

While managers should absolutely recognize and reward individuals for well-executed contributions, the strongest leaders reinforce the importance of succeeding as a team. Teach your employees that providing support for their team members and working hard for the benefit of the group leads to positive results for both themselves and the team as a whole, and never try to manage by pitting employees against each other or encouraging negatively-fueled competition.

4. Lead by example. 

It’s difficult for employees to take a manager’s instructions seriously if they see her openly flouting the rules she’s put in place. That’s why it’s essential for managers to follow their own guidelines. Provide a consistent example of quality performance, and your employees will be more likely to respect and work toward your standards.

Managing employees with more experience than you

“Seniority” in the workplace can be a nebulous concept; there’s title seniority, which indicates that management is “senior” to all reporting staff, regardless of longevity. But if you find yourself managing an employee who has been working for the company far longer than you, it may feel strange to pull rank on someone who knows the ins and outs of the organization as well as (or better than) you. These tips will help you navigate this particular management challenge.

1. Let the employee know that you value her input and contributions.

Acknowledging the fact that your employee has impressive experience and letting her know how much you value her presence on your team can go a long way. However, you shouldn’t feel the need to prove your fitness for your role to your senior reports; just make it clear that you respect your employees and want to make the best possible use of their talents and skills. 

2. Strike a balance between incorporating employee feedback and taking a leadership role as a decision-maker.

It’s hugely important to listen to your reports’ input, particularly when those employees have significant experience to back their opinions. But you also need to know when to make firm choices as a manager. The best leaders listen to and act on their employee’s suggestions while also standing behind their own decisions.

Managing "difficult" employees

Every manager must learn to deal with employees who, for whatever reason, aren’t easy to manage. Perhaps their productivity isn’t where it should be, or they’re resistant to your managerial authority. Or, maybe they don’t get along well with their coworkers. Regardless of the specifics, you as a manager need to devise a plan for getting what you need (and what the company needs) from these workers. A few helpful hints:

1. Don’t let the employee’s “difficulty” dissuade you from communicating your concerns.

At the end of the day, your job as a manager is to get the best possible work-related results from your team. If your employee falls short of those standards, you need to make her aware and to create a strategy for improvement. It helps to approach these conversations in a direct but non-accusatory manner; “what’s going on?” is a question that both gets to the heart of the matter while allowing you to avoid overly-confrontational language. 

2. Be prepared to escalate the situation if it doesn’t resolve itself.

If your problem employee’s behavior affects your team’s overall performance and your ability to effectively manage, then you need to make her aware of possible consequences. A formal performance improvement plan is an option; in this situation, you’d clearly express your expectations, explain why she isn’t fulfilling them, and present a suggested plan for how to resolve the issues with a definitive end date. If she hasn’t improved by the agreed-upon date, make sure that she knows that termination will most likely follow. 


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