how to deal with difficult employees

Dealing with difficult employees: An employer's guide

Published On: 22nd January 2024 | Updated On: 28th February 2024

In any workplace, you're likely to encounter a variety of personalities and work styles. While most employees are cooperative and contribute positively to the team, there may be instances where you have to address challenging situations involving difficult staff or problematic employees. Understanding how to manage disrespectful employee behaviour and other workplace issues effectively is crucial for maintaining a productive and harmonious work environment. In this blog, we will explore examples of negative behaviour at work, delve into the bad behaviour definition, and provide strategies for dealing with insubordinate employees.

Identifying Difficult Staff and Problem Employees

Before we delve into how to handle difficult employees, it's essential to recognise the signs of problematic behaviour. Problem employees can manifest their issues in various ways, including:

  • Chronic Tardiness: Employees who consistently arrive late for work or meetings disrupt schedules and can negatively impact productivity.
  • Attendance Issues: Frequent absences, unexplained leaves, or excessive sick days can strain the team and disrupt workflow.
  • Poor Performance: Difficulty meeting job requirements, missed deadlines, or subpar work quality may indicate a problematic employee.
  • Negative Attitude: Consistent pessimism, complaining, or criticism can create a toxic atmosphere in the workplace.
  • Conflict with Colleagues: Frequent disputes, confrontations, or a lack of cooperation with co-workers can hinder teamwork.
  • Insubordination: Employees who disregard instructions or openly defy management may pose a significant challenge.
  • Disrespectful Behaviour: This includes actions such as yelling, name-calling, or undermining colleagues and supervisors.
  • Violation of Company Policies: Repeated infractions of workplace rules and policies may require intervention.

Examples of Negative Behaviour at Work

Negative behaviour at work can take various forms, making it essential to understand and address each situation appropriately. Here are some examples:

  • Gossiping and Rumour-mongering: Spreading false information or rumours about colleagues can create tension and mistrust within the team.
  • Bullying and Harassment: Verbal abuse, intimidation, or discrimination targeted at co-workers is unacceptable and must be addressed promptly.
  • Sabotaging Team Efforts: Employees who intentionally undermine team projects or refuse to cooperate can hinder progress.
  • Refusal to Follow Instructions: Insubordination, ignoring directives, or failing to complete assigned tasks is detrimental to workplace productivity.
  • Excessive Negativity: Constant complaining, criticism, or a pessimistic attitude can impact team morale and motivation.

Understanding the Bad Behaviour Definition

The bad behaviour definition in the workplace encompasses actions or conduct that disrupts the normal flow of work, hinders productivity, and creates a hostile or unpleasant atmosphere. It includes actions that violate company policies, damage team dynamics, or compromise the well-being of employees. Employers need to address bad behaviour promptly to maintain a healthy work environment.

Dealing with Insubordinate Employees and Disrespectful Employee Behaviour

Addressing difficult staff and problem employees requires a strategic approach. Here are steps to help you effectively manage disrespectful employee behaviour and other workplace issues:

1. Identify the Root Cause: Begin by understanding the underlying causes of the problematic behaviour. Is it due to personal issues, job dissatisfaction, or misunderstandings? Identifying the root cause can guide your approach.

2. Communicate Openly: Schedule a private meeting with the employee to discuss their behaviour. Maintain a non-confrontational tone and actively listen to their perspective. Encourage them to express their concerns and feelings.

3. Set Clear Expectations: Clearly define the expected workplace behaviour and performance standards. Ensure the employee understands their role, responsibilities, and the consequences of not adhering to company policies.

4. Document Incidents: Keep a record of instances of negative behaviour, including dates, times, witnesses, and specific actions. This documentation can be valuable in case further action is required.

5. Provide Constructive Feedback: Offer specific feedback on the problematic behaviour and suggest alternative approaches. Focus on improvement and guide how to rectify the situation.

6. Offer Support: In cases where personal issues are affecting an employee's behaviour, consider offering support or resources, such as counselling or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).

7. Implement Progressive Discipline: If the behaviour continues, follow a progressive discipline process, which typically includes verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension, and, as a last resort, termination. Ensure that the disciplinary actions are consistent with company policies.

8. Encourage Positive Change: Create an environment that promotes positive behaviour by recognising and rewarding employees who exhibit good conduct and teamwork. Encourage open communication and cooperation among all staff members.

9. Seek Legal Guidance if Necessary: In cases involving severe misconduct or legal implications, consult with legal counsel to ensure that your actions are in compliance with labour laws and regulations.

10. Monitor Progress: After addressing the issue, continue to monitor the employee's behaviour and performance. Provide ongoing feedback and support to help them maintain positive changes.


Dealing with difficult employees and managing disrespectful employee behaviour are a challenging but essential aspect of effective leadership. By identifying problematic behaviour, and following a systematic approach, employers can maintain a productive and harmonious work environment while providing opportunities for employees to improve and contribute positively to the organisation. Effective communication with difficult employees can also help the employer by giving them improvement feedback, actively listening to their concerns, resolving upcoming challenges and offering them growth opportunities.

Recent Blogs


Your account has been created.