Dealing With Difficult Employees

Have you read part one in this series? In that article you discovered why you are the most important component in dealing with difficult employees. In this article we'll discuss who is the most important person in your team, and in the next article you'll discover a six step process for dealing with difficult people.

Who Is The Most Powerful Member Of Your Team? ...

Is it the Leader?

Is it the most engaged and inspired person?

Is it the one with the most degrees?

Is it the one with the most information?

Nope! It is the one who cares the least about the team's success. Harsh but true.

The person who cares the least is the most powerful because of the insidious influence he or she has over the success or mediocrity of your team.

One drop of the 'bad' stuff has immediate impact

Many years ago while giving a presentation, Bob Proctor placed two glasses on a table. One half-filled with coffee and one half-filled with water.

He began to place one teaspoon of water, after another, in the coffee cup. Initially there was little difference in the color of the coffee. After a while though, slowly, ever so slowly the coffee glass become slightly clearer. Bob explained that the drip of clear water into the coffee is like the effect of positive emotions on a person who has a negative state of mind.

Then Bob turned to the clear glass of water and in it he placed one teaspoon of coffee. Immediately the water changed color. Bob explained this is the impact of negativity on a positive mind "It only takes a little bit of poison to kill".


Teams are like that. If your team is very negative and you bring in one optimistic, upbeat person the chances of that one person making a difference in the team can be quite small.

Contrastingly put one person in your team who is poisonous and it can have a rapid negative impact on the performance of your entire team. There is something about human nature that I've not quite figured out, but the lowest common denominator can often be the most prevalent - which is why you need to handle poor performers quickly and well.

One Poisonous Team Member Arrives and the Team Implodes

Through the introduction of one very negative, lazy and manipulative person - coupled with a leader who wasn't skilled at dealing with difficult employees - I witnessed a team move from high levels of performance to a team in shreds within about six months.

The people who were high-performing became increasingly frustrated with the performance issues not being addressed and the people who were average-performers, slowly and leechingly like the water being added to coffee, began to let their performance slide - and the people who had already been inclined to low performance ... well they turned into coffee almost immediately!

Unfortunately, the team lost several high performers before the rot was stopped and in the end we actually had to virtually disband the team and bring in people from other teams in order to get it back performing.

One of the things we did was really strengthen the leaders skills at handling difficult conversations. Access the "Successful Feedback" - training that shows you how to handle difficult conversations with confidence.

If you are leader letting under-performance go unremarked ... who is avoiding dealing with difficult employees (or doesn't know how to do it effectively) ... then the uncomfortable truth for you is that your team will eventually perform to the level of the lowest performer.

Savvy team leaders and engaged and empowered team members know this truth: they need to be good at dealing with difficult employees and poor performers and team member performance issues need to be addressed early, directly and frequently.

You could even justify avoiding having to handle poor performers and keeping the poor performer around because:

  • a warm body is better than nothing
  • maybe the next one will be worse
  • the union protects people and makes it too hard

Use any excuses like those and it's absolutely the losers limp!

Sure, letting poor performance slide may seem easier and safer - particularly in the short-term, but it is team engagement and consequently team performance suicide if you do. You'll have poorer customer service, higher absenteeism, your high performers will leave in frustration and rather than coming to work with a spring in their step it will be a chore for everyone to come to work.

Sure addressing low performance and dealing with difficult employees can be tough.

Many challenges are likely to come your way as you hold people to a higher standard.

But, what's your alternative? ... A mediocre team, being led by a mediocre leader, delivering mediocre performance ... You are better than that!

Go to Part 3 of this article series

Okay - so enough about why it is important - let's get to the how to. Here's a 6 step process for dealing with difficult team members.

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