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The 8 Types of Difficult Employees New Managers Struggle to Lead

Executive Summary

Any day in the life of a manager likely includes addressing some variety of employee misconduct. While there is no way to account for every bad behavior you might encounter, there are a few that occur in workplaces across the nation and world.

  • Manage employees with chronically debilitating behaviors by focusing on the what, why, and how. What are the issues? Why do they need to be fixed? How can the employee do better?
  • Remember to remain positive when delivering your criticisms.
  • Be prepared to confront the 8 most common types of difficult employees: The Attacker, Comic, Deserter, Limelight Seeker, Moonlighter, No-My-Jobber, Bleeding Heart, and Complainer.

As a new manager, you are likely to run into many different types of employees whom you find challenging. When faced with managing them, you must deal with their behaviors.

If you let these behaviors slide, you’re giving the message that it’s okay to keep behaving that way. Also, the rest of your staff will lose trust and confidence in you. They will feel you don’t have the ability to handle difficult employees or you don’t care.

How to Confront Challenging Behaviors

The best way to confront these challenging behaviors is to tell the employees what behaviors they need to change and why.

Then you need to listen to them—they may have good reasons for behaving the way they do. Next, get them to agree that they will change and discuss how you will monitor their behavior. Make sure to give positive feedback when they show signs of improvement.

Of course, you want to come to this meeting prepared with examples of what you mean in case they doubt what you are saying or are not sure what you mean. Be positive. Make it clear that you want them to succeed. Explain how they will likely be more successful if they’re able to change some of their problem behavior. It will be much easier for you if they do.

Having to put someone into a discipline procedure can be a nightmare for everyone. You may have no other choice, but it should always be your last alternative.

8 types of difficult  employees

Types of Difficult Employees 

Here are a few of the types of employees that most new managers find particularly challenging. There are many others. Be on the outlook for them. Use the suggestions discussed here for confronting their unacceptable behavior.

The Attacker. This person always disagrees with what you say or with what other team members say. The Attacker tries to undermine you and block the efforts of the group or department from achieving its goals.

The Comic. This employee thinks her main job at work is to entertain others. Laughter in the workplace is great, but when done to excess it distracts from getting the job done.

The Deserter. This individual either mentally or physically leaves the team. The Deserter drops out and stops contributing or even performing at work.

The Limelight Seeker. This employee likes to take credit for the work done by others and goes around bragging about how crucial he is to the success of the organization.

The Moonlighter. This employee treats her regular job as secondary to some other interest. At one company with about 3,500 employees, a manager had trouble figuring out one of his employees, named Joy. From August to January, Joy was the busiest employee you could imagine. She was always on the telephone or her computer or holding meetings in the conference rooms. But from February through July, Joy sat around with nothing to do. Take a wild guess what Joy was up to. She ran the company’s football pool and made it her full-time job!

The Not-My-Jobber. Employees like this do nothing unless it’s in the job description. If you asked them to drop something at HR on the way to lunch, they will refuse. After all, where does it say that is one of their responsibilities or goals?

The Bleeding Heart. These employees feel they have given their lives for the company, received nothing in return, and want everyone to know it. The Bleeding Heart usually has no life or no enjoyable life outside of work.

The Complainer. This type likes to moan and complain about everything. It could be the workload, the other employees, the boss, the customer, the drive to work, the day of the week, the weather, and so on. Complainers are dangerous because their negativity easily spreads to others.

There are obviously many other types of challenging employees. As a manager, you need to expect all kinds of difficult behaviors and deal with them effectively as soon as possible.

Excerpted with permission from The First-Time Manager by Jim McCormick, copyright Loren B. Belker, Jim McCormick, and Gary S. Topchik.

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick is founder and president of the Research Institute for Risk Intelligence, and the former COO of the nation’s fifth-largest architectural firm. As an organizational consultant and executive coach, he has extensive experience working with CEOs and other leaders. He co-wrote The First-Time Manager with Loren B. Belker and Gary S. Topchik.

Bring It Home

How would you handle an employee who complains to new hires and causes ripples within your team and the company as a whole? What phrases might you use to convey the gravity of their behavior while projecting a positive demeanor? Tell us your strategy below! ~ HarperCollins Leadership Essentials

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