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3 Ways to Handle Difficult Employees

Everyone has dealt with a difficult colleague at one point or another. How can you productively work alongside them?

SchmuckinOfficePROBLEM Everyone has dealt with a difficult colleague at one point or another. How can you productively work alongside them?

SOLUTION In The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively With Difficult People at Work, Jody J. Foster, M.D., and
Michelle Joy, M.D., explore how to handle 10 different but equally disruptive personalities you might come across in the office. While each personality type requires its own approach to encourage change, they all can benefit from certain behaviors from their coworkers:

1 Early intervention When an employee’s behavior is disruptive, it’s key to intervene early on and allow coworkers to express how they feel about the situation before it spirals out of control. Foster and Joy recommend communicating with the disrupter with the goal of a positive outcome for all.

2 Subtle adjustments Eccentric employees might require a work environment that caters to their unique interests. A seemingly robotic employee could benefit from a rigid, predictable schedule. An easily distracted worker might be more productive if assigned small, achievable, step-by-step tasks. You may wonder why you need to adjust to accommodate a problematic employee, but according to Foster and Joy, minding your half of the relationship can improve the overall morale of a team.

3 Talk in person With less-confrontational methods of communication like email and texting available, it can be tempting to deal with a difficult situation indirectly. However, Foster and Joy say it’s vital to speak directly with employees, particularly when you don’t understand their behavior. Tone and body language go a long way in connecting with a difficult colleague. 

Casey Gale