6 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Employees

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Dealing with difficult franchisees

When you imagine running your own business, you probably picture tasks like financial planning and organising marketing campaigns - but knowing how to address issues with employees is just as important. Whether you’re an employer with a workforce or a franchisor with a franchisee network, our tips could help you when dealing with difficult employees and business partners within a company. 


No matter how experienced you are as a businessperson, dealing with difficult employees can be tough. Every situation is different, and each tricky individual will have their own reasons for acting out. Knowing how to lay the groundwork for a harmonious workplace is key, as a cooperative atmosphere can go a long way in keeping everyone happy. 

Here’s how to set up a business to reduce the likelihood of disagreements - and how to resolve issues with employees if they crop up. 

Tips for dealing with difficult employees

1. Implement an effective recruitment scheme (before the dispute)

Step one is to try to avoid hiring difficult employees in the first place. By developing a comprehensive recruitment programme and taking the time to learn more about candidates before taking them on, you should be able to eliminate awkward or troublesome applicants. 

Aim to continue searching for candidates until you find someone who demonstrates the attributes you’re looking for and appears to be a good fit for your business and its values. When you’re patient and diligent in the recruitment process, you reduce the likelihood of problems cropping up further down the line. 

2. Promote a productive and low-stress company culture (before the dispute)

Many employers overlook the significance of company culture, but it can have a huge impact on the way people view the business and feel about working within it. Sometimes, an individual doesn’t mean to be difficult, but a stressful, high-pressure or anti-social working environment has led them to become frustrated, unpredictable and challenging. 

You can promote a calm and cooperative atmosphere in your business by creating clear company values and making changes with your ethos in mind. Taking these steps should benefit you as well as your employees; businesses with a strong culture can increase their revenue by 400 percent (Forbes). 

3. Build trust through leadership (before the dispute)

Employees want to progress and learn, so if you don’t use your position of authority to nurture their talents and provide support, you’ll probably end up with dissatisfied workers. In fact, an employer who appears to take their team for granted and doesn’t give anything back will often come up against issues. 

Prioritise professional development and consider ways to support your employees’ career journey. Think about the kind of experience your workers have at your business, and whether it’s conducive to productivity and job satisfaction. You can build trust by being a competent leader and considering the needs of your employees, so don’t forget to ask for regular feedback and new ideas. 

Employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel they are an integral part of a company’s mission. – Anne Mulcahy, BusinessWire



4. Communicate respectfully (during the dispute)

Although openness and honesty should be part of your company culture, these values are especially important when dealing with difficult employees. By communicating with respect and tact, there’s a good chance you can reach an understanding without escalating the problem. 

Bosses who lack manners, emotional intelligence or people skills can quickly alienate workers and generate resentment among their teams. In fact, nine in 10 jobseekers say it’s important to work for companies that prioritise transparency (Glassdoor). And almost the same proportion of HR professionals believe regular feedback and ‘check-ins’ have a positive effect on a business (SHRM).



5. Understand their perspective (during the dispute)

Many bosses are quick to assume an employee’s difficult behaviour is simply a product of their personality. But this isn’t always the case; often, there are other issues at play, impacting the individual’s ability to perform well within their role. If you have an employee causing problems at work, there may be more to the situation than meets the eye. 

Take the time to have a private, one-to-one discussion with them and talk about why they might be struggling. If there’s a genuine issue, it’s your job to step in and provide the necessary support or point them in the direction of someone else who can help.

Taking a considered approach should improve your relationship in the long term, as 93 percent of employees are more likely to stay at a business with an empathetic boss (Businessolver). 

6. Know your limits (during the dispute) 

Bosses should always act with respect and understanding, but don’t let your kindness stretch too far if an employee is taking advantage of the situation. Stick to your company policy and don’t shy away from following the correct procedure if you need to take action. Unfortunately, on rare occasions, it’s not possible to reach a solution. 

As an employer, you need to act in good faith to protect the culture within your business and maintain a positive work atmosphere for your other staff members. Always act fairly and respectfully, but don’t be afraid to take necessary steps to resolve the problem. If you need expert advice or guidance, you could consult an HR professional or solicitor. 

Find more tips on running a business

Dealing with difficult employees can be a headache; but it is essential if you’re to ensure the smooth running of the company. You can find more guidance in daily articles. We cover a wide range of different topics relating to business ownership and the franchising world, and have a catalogue of thousands of publications and resources.

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