By Perminus Wainaina
In Human Resources, one of the most challenging tasks is dealing with different personalities.
What do you do when you’re managing a difficult employee?
How do you ensure there’s still synergy within the team and everyone works together?
This is what Sarah has been struggling with at her place of work.
Sarah is the HR manager at a marketing company. However, she tells me she has one employee, he is talented, and always surpasses his targets. This employee is very competitive; he will go to every length to ensure he wins –even if the win comes at the expense of his colleagues and sometimes the department.
Sarah wanted to know how best she can deal with such an employee.
There are different kinds of stubborn employees in the workplace. Before looking at how to deal with them, let’s first look at the most popular categories of stubborn employees.
i. The super competitive employees –There’s no harm in competition at the workplace. In most cases, competition is encouraged as each employee digs deeper and gives the best they’ve got to offer.
The super competitive employee, however, goes beyond normal competition. These kinds of employees do not consider anyone else. For example, such an employee would take a task that doesn’t require teamwork. They might even forego a group activity in order to focus on their solo project. Eventually, this will lead to a lack of synergy in the group.
ii. Dramatic employees – There’s no problem with showing emotions at work. Some emotions, such as passion, joy, and compassion can make you better at your tasks. However, there are those employees who are dramatic at everything. If the company makes one change, they seem to lose it.
iii. Procrastinating employees – These employees wait until the last minute to start on a project. In the long run, this can compromise the quality of work as it is done at the last minute and in haste.
iv. The ill-tempered employees – These employees seem to be angered by everyone and everything. They are always angry at someone or a situation. With such an employee, you might notice the colleagues watch every word they say and are to an extent nervous when around the tempered employee.
From the list above, you can see Sarah is dealing with a super competitive employee. In her case, the employee is good at their work, which makes terminating them a distant option.
In this case, how do you deal with such an employee?
Here are 3 full-proof tips to deal with an arrogant yet talented employee
1. Let them know
I have seen instances where an employee is arrogant, but they do not know. The first step of dealing with any stubborn employee is to inform them about their traits and character.
Have a meeting with them –preferably just the two of you, and let them know how their behavior and actions are negatively affecting other employees and the company at large.
When you’re letting them know, draw from specific past examples and how their actions affected everyone at work.
A HR manager once told me of an employee who would play music loudly at work. When I suggested he let the employee know, he did so. In a week he called me.
During the meeting, the employee was apologetic and stated he played music out loud to help in his creative process. Since no one had complained, he thought the colleagues were okay with it. Soon after the meeting, this employee bought earphones, and the matter was resolved.
When dealing with a stubborn employee, effective communication skills are key.
2. Engage their strengths
I have found that some arrogant employees have developed such an attitude because they feel underutilized.
Look at what the employee is good at, their areas of strengths, and then engage these areas. You’ll be surprised that most will be focused on the tasks assigned; they won’t have time to be stubborn.
For efficiency at work, ensure each employee utilizes their strengths.
3. Document every engagement
You should have clear documentation of every official communication you’ve had with the employee.
This way, it’s easy to pull a conversation you had and the arrangements you made. This will help you follow up on the action points discussed.
Moreover, this could also help you build a case against the employee.
At the end of the day, remember that dealing with people and their differences is no easy task. However, when you have effective soft skills and communication skills, you’ll have an easier time dealing with everyone. To be effective in your role, take some time and evaluate the needs, strengths, and weaknesses of an employee, then match them to those of the organization. Equipped with this, you’ll be able to judge who needs to be placed in what department, who should be given a managerial role, and whom the company would do better without.
Perminus Wainaina is an experienced HR Practioner with over 15 years experience in executive recruitment and selection, training, performance management, and Kenyan labour laws.
He has consulted for firms such as Safaricom Sacco, Oxfam, Un Women, Pacis Insurance, Windsor Golf, Muthaiga Country Club, etc. Currently, he represents the private sector at KEBS in the HR standardization committee.