Updated: Oct 23, 2019
Difficult employees are often low performers, but not always. Sometimes top performers can also be high maintenance. They may be hard to handle, but they know how to get things done. And their work is often key to a team’s success. But their behavior can be disruptive so it’s important to manage them effectively.
When you have high performing, but difficult employees, letting them go is rarely the best option.
Luckily there are techniques for managing high maintenance employees effectively.
How should you communicate with a talented but difficult employee?
Talk on their turf - Difficult employees often have a problem with authority figures, like managers. So to stop them feeling threatened, it’s often best to have one-on-one chats with them at their desk.
Communicate effectively - During these discussions, communicating effectively is the key. So you should deal with issues directly. Listen actively, ask for clarification when necessary, and don't take anything personally.
If you can, laugh at yourself instead. Self-deprecating humor can be a great way to connect with a high maintenance employee on a personal level. When they see you don’t take yourself too seriously, they may begin to relate to you better. Just remember to keep it clean and professional.
How can you encourage a talented but difficult employee to buy into the team concept?
Explain how the employee fits into the company. Communicating where employees fit in the company is an excellent idea. And since a vague career path can easily make high-maintenance behavior worse, it’s important to let people know how they can grow with the company.
Make employees peer mentors. Making employees peer mentors is also smart. The idea is to build their trust in the team dynamic by putting them in the leadership roles. And this just might get them to start seeing their individual successes and overall team successes as the same thing.
What about you, have you been in a situation where you successfully managed a difficult employee?