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The Effectiveness-Lab

Managing difficult employees – not a bloody affair

We live and work with human beings and not robots. Every individual on earth has got a particular personality. An imprint that belongs to them only. Character develops by the time we are six years old, and it is challenging to change it. We instead mitigate the effects, in most instances negative, of the other’s personality.

Managing difficult employees – doesn’t have to be a bloody affair

Our personality follows us at social clubs, school, work, and our families. This blog, however, discusses personality at work. In particular, it deals with the difficult employee

Difficult people have certain personality traits that compromise communication between you and them. It makes the provision of T.L.C to employees a tough exercise. To have such difficult people and at the same time maintain a pleasant climate at work calls for quintessential people management skills.

Individuals with pleasant personalities wonder why difficult people have the opposite personality. Well, suffice it to say that they are what they are. It doesn’t matter whether you are peers, junior and you are the boss, a difficult personality is problematic to deal with.

Managers amongst you must be familiar with what is being discussed above. Difficult employees can undermine leadership’s effort to provide a healthy work environment, and this, they do entirely oblivious to the interests of those around them. It’s all they know, and they are naturally defensive

Managers reminisce those grilling, painful, and at times confrontational one on one regular feedback sessions and ultimately performance appraisal with some of the people they boss. It’s evident that difficult individuals, however brilliant they are, undermine teamwork and the climate at work. They create unnecessary tension at work.

Don’t you dread having to deal with difficult people? Mainly because you have to expend a little more energy to have a conversation with them than you would with the opposite personality

Getting the best out of difficult people begins with understanding them. These people are like that. What you perceive as abnormal is perfect behaviour in their eyes.

We don’t need bad blood when managing difficult personalities. To the contrary, confrontation with them won’t get you far. It will instead undermine your leadership, strategy, and design OV’s.

Difficult personalities, if not managed well, can bring even the most viable bionic entity to its knees. After all, the People OV is the glue that binds the other three OV’s [leadership, strategy, and design]. When the people OV fails, the other three OV’s also become dysfunctional.

Difficult people traits:

The Entrepreneur has done a pretty good job at categorising difficult people. We share the six classifications of difficult employees and how to manage them

  1. Playing victim: this apparently, is the least accountable person in the office. Things always seem to happen to them. They cry foul over everything and will play the victim when they don’t do their work. Managers are advised to have a strict accountability regime with this type of employee. Define what they need to do and monitor progress while providing feedback on the go.
  2. The Hisser: like a coiled snake, this type of difficult employee only reacts when provoked. When they respond, however, they whine, rave, and rant. They are incredibly unpredictable and difficult to change. They are what they are. They are pushy and tend to bully others at work. Because hissers don’t change behaviour easily and are unpredictable, managers are advised to consider moving them on
  3. The negative Nellie: this type of employee is very negative and will see something wrong even in good initiatives. They are averse to change and resist new initiatives most of the time. However, they are a blessing in disguise if managed well. They are your devil’s advocate and check instances of group-think. Take them for what they are, keep them at the organisation, but avoid placing them in a leadership role as their negative energy can undermine team spirit
  4. The Ghost: this difficult employee is lazy and has mastered the skill to avoid work. They disappear sick, pretend to be very busy, and will pass on work to the others. Managers are advised to be honest with such employees and ask them to embrace work or move on
  5. The Narcissist: this is a selfish employee that puts self first. They don’t gel well in teams and prefer to work alone. If talented, managers are advised to keep them working on solo projects. Narcissist’s hardly modify their behaviour, and you are advised to keep them separate from teams
  6. The Einstein: Like Einstein himself, this type of difficult employee is extremely intelligent. They are smart and they know it. They are rigid and come across as arrogant. They have to be managed as such, helping them improve behaviour while tactfully deploying the brain power they bring to the organisation’s value chain

Can you teach good personality?

Are there clinics that treat difficult people? Should having a difficult personality get someone to be labelled sick?

We, at the effectiveness lab, believe in respecting other people’s personalities. We recommend working to mitigate the effects of such difficult individuals on the organisation, team, and personal relationship between the supervisor and supervisee. We don’t recommend labelling others sick and trying to change what is fundamentally innate to them. We aren’t God and shall never be.

Managers are advised to work to improve but not necessarily change difficult behaviour.  Put effort into trying to make difficult employees work in an emotionally-inclusive and productive manner for your organisation and team. Do the givens of best-practice performance management: provide T.L.C to such employees, listen, provide timely feedback, define consequences of not performing, document and if it comes to moving them on, please do exactly that

It doesn’t have to be a bloody affair!











4 responses to “Managing difficult employees – not a bloody affair”

  1. […] and Care (T.L.C) for staff, maximising people investment, herding employees to maximise value and managing difficult employees have all provided perspective on why the people OV is the glue that brings together leadership, […]


  2. I wish all my workmates can read this.


    1. Well – share it on 😜


  3. Good article.


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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