If you are a manager or in a leadership position at your job, learning to manage difficult employees, unfortunately, is a reality. The key to this over anything else is to love people. It will make managing a team full of varying personalities and strengths easier to navigate, especially the more complex personality types. 

This article will explore the more common difficult personalities you may find and some tips on managing these more problematic personality types so your team can continue to achieve results. 

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But first, to really help you stand out in your new role I highly recommend downloading The Ultimate Guide to Being an Effective Team Leader.  A free downloadable interactive guide to help you show up and stand out and take the right action steps.

THE COMPLAINER

We have all met a complainer. They can make an issue out of everything. No matter how positive or minor the complaint, they will complain and ensure everyone knows their complaint. These personality types can be detrimental to a team. Having someone complain all the time or always point out the negative can really affect team morale and drag everyone else down. Negativity is contagious. As a manager, this is not something that you want. 

Finding the root of the problem can help to deal with a complainer. There are three possible reasons someone may complain constantly.

1. They may feel overloaded and have way too much on their plate. Maybe they are not very good at time management and setting priorities. 

2. They really do have too much on their plate, and they feel they have no support from those around them. 

3. They lack the confidence to complete the assigned tasks, so they resort to complaining. 

Getting to the root cause can help stop a complainer; perhaps they don’t even realize they are complaining so much. The first thing you can do is start a conversation with them about the three points above and see what they feel. You can offer your support, whether it’s helping them manage their time better, helping them to figure out what steps are needed to take for a task they are not feeling confident about, and of course, offering as much support as possible. 

Another thing you can do is shift their perspective to more solution-based. When they start complaining about one thing or another, ask what they feel would be a solution to this problem or how to better handle a situation they think is being mismanaged. Directing their focus towards more solution-based thinking will help to reframe their thoughts away from complaining all the time. 

THE YES PERSON

A yes person may seem great initially, very agreeable, and agrees to every task and project you ask of them, but over time you may notice these tasks and projects are not being completed. This is a perfect formula to create mistrust with this individual. 

This person may not be saying yes and not following through because they are not a good team member. Maybe they have agreed to too much and can’t keep up. 

This team member may be saying yes to everything out of fear, or they may be a people pleaser. Saying yes to everything asked of them but knowing they have overcommitted and can’t follow through. 

It may also be that this individual is just plain bad at planning. 

Finding the root cause of this problem is crucial to how you approach the solution. If it’s a matter of fear, people-pleasing or planning better. Be sure they know it is ok to say no (within reason, of course) and how to better plan to ensure all commitments are being met. Another critical aspect of dealing with this personality type is that they understand the consequences of not following through with the task they agreed to. It’s important that you follow through with consequences and set clear expectations with this type of employee. So, there is no confusion about what is expected and what consequences there are for not following through. 

THE KNOW-IT-ALL

This is a difficult person to manage; they are annoying and frustrating. We have all come across a know-it-all. They always feel the need to put in their two cents on every topic, whether they are knowledgeable about the topic or not. 

As annoying as this behaviour is, it tends to be a symptom of a deeper cause and generally is insecurity. Maybe they are not being validated at work or even at home, so they feel the need always to give their opinion and make sure everyone knows what they think. 

A good way to deal with this type of person is to find a balance between recognizing the good they have done and giving them the credit they deserve, but not overindulging them. This is tough because you must find balance with this behaviour you want to praise the good job they do but don’t want to encourage a know-it-all attitude. Alongside finding a balance between praise and not overindulging them, it would be good to talk to them about their attitude and that it’s not a good look for anyone to have. It’s not acceptable, and they need to be more thoughtful in how they interact with others in the workplace. 

This behaviour needs to be squashed quickly because, for one, if they are annoying you, they are for sure annoying the other people on their team. This will cause division and negativity amongst your team. The second reason is that maybe they don’t realize they are acting this way, not everyone is self-aware, and when pointed out to them, they are given a chance to correct the bad behaviour. Keep the conversation respectful. You don’t want hurt feelings or animosity, but be direct to get your point across. Remember, this behaviour most likely stems from a sense of insecurity, so you don’t want to add to that. 

THE PERSON THAT WANTS YOU TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS

This employee comes to you with every problem they are having, expecting you to provide a solution to them without trying to solve it themselves. This is a sign of a deeper problem. It could be one of the five following issues

1. They may lack critical thinking skills

2. They may lack confidence in their skills

3. They may not have the proper training needed to perform their tasks. 

4. You are micromanaging them.

5. They have experienced poor management in the past, which didn’t trust team members to make decisions independently. 

You can help this type of person by asking them to only bring a problem to you along with a solution for your opinion. Always solving a team member’s problem puts pressure on you and makes you wonder about the team member’s value if you are constantly solving their problems. There is nothing wrong with double-checking a solution with you, as long as you don’t have to come up with the solution for them. 

THE GOSSIP

Generally, this is a tough one; a gossiper is very friendly and personable, which is how they get people to open up to them and then betray that person’s trust by spreading their private conversation to other people on the team. This is cancerous and ultra toxic in a work environment. A gossiper will destroy trust among the team members and can even affect the team’s productivity. 

There are two ways to deal with a gossiper. The first one is to set an example through your own behaviour. Have you ever been sucked into some gossip? have you spread gossip? or have you been aware of gossip and did nothing to stop the behaviour? Participating in gossip in any way sends a strong message to your team and is a great way to create a super toxic work environment. 

The second approach is to be very transparent with your team, so the gossip has no room to create a juicy story to spread around. If changes are coming to the office or any change is happening, be sure to communicate clearly, so there is no room for interpretation. 

Conclusion

Dealing with difficult employees is tough, but there are tried and true methods to squash the behaviour before it gets too out of hand. It won’t be easy to do, but you can do it. Your team will thank you.