24 Signs You're Dealing with Difficult Employees - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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24 Signs You're Dealing with a Difficult Employee

24 Signs You’re Dealing with Difficult Employees

One day or another, all managers will encounter a difficult employee they will have to deal with. The situation might announce itself as a nightmare for some who are already familiar with it. These gruelling characters, who systematically challenge management figures, act maliciously by either manipulating the ones around them or by acting as road blocks to the progress of their team.

Often destabilised, managers can end up not knowing how to react, feeling powerless confronted to the situation. They might, to the best of their ability, try to understand the reasons behind the attitude of their employee but will feel too embarrassed to take action. Unfortunately, the solution rarely lies at the root of the problem. The important thing is to avoid turning the situation into a drama and especially to act promptly and effectively in order to tackle the issue.

The Anatomy of a Difficult Employee

What does a difficult employee actually look like? Many definitions can be brought as an answer to this question. Judging people as difficult really comes down to our individual perceptions. From assessing the way they interact with others on a personal level to the expectations we set for them in terms of timeliness, productivity or the language that is used in the workplace.

Sadly, many managers fall in the trap of confusing difficult employees with employees in difficulty. Yet, making the distinction is crucial in order to adopt the right corrective measures.

An employee who is facing a tough time might be experiencing a lot of stress, affecting his behaviour, moods and performance. But the situation is only temporary, which doesn’t make him or her a difficult employee despite the counter performance.  In this situation, managers should not aim to resolve their employees’ issues. It’s simply not their role. But rather to orientate them towards helpful resources such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

On the other hand, a truly difficult employee will stand out because of his repeat and lasting negativity and low performance. It’s the persistence of the situation that will distinguish a difficult character from a person in difficulty.

24 Characteristics of Difficult Employees

  1. They have lost all sense of responsibility – Whatever happens, it’s not their fault. They disregard deadlines regardless of the impact on their colleagues and the project they are assigned to.
  2. They feel entitled – and monitor their employer’s actions to ensure that they do not go against their employee rights.
  3. They refuse to collaborate – without a doubt, they can choose what to do and how to do it.
  4. They challenge authority.
  5. They are manipulative – and communicate negativity throughout the office by sending destabilising messages to their co-workers.
  6. They put their interest first – Disengaged, they wonder what the organisation can do for them and, on the other hand, rarely question what they can do to benefit the company.
  7. They are underperforming.
  8. They do not respect deadlines.
  9. They arrive late.
  10. They deliver incomplete projects.
  11. They think others are the problem.
  12. They are…missing.
  13. They leave their desk for no reason.
  14. They use their phone (unreasonably).
  15. They refuse to complete tasks – even when they fall under their function.
  16. They slow down their team.
  17. They criticise others openly.
  18. They never give a hand.
  19. They arrive late at meetings.
  20. They leave meetings (without notice).
  21. They openly bad mouth their organisation.
  22. They criticise but don’t bring solutions.
  23. They don’t respect safety rules and standards.
  24. They abuse sick leave policies.

remote workplace management

Oriane Perrin

Customer Success & Growth Manager