Tips For Working With A Difficult Direct Report

Difficult employees look different on every team. Some difficult employees may not do their jobs well, making their colleagues pull the extra weight. Other difficult employees may have a bad attitude that ends up disrupting the entire team. Some direct reports try to undermine their boss, which can lower team morale and productivity.

Nothing tests your confidence and motivation as a leader more than a difficult direct report, says Brittney Maxfield, the senior director of marketing communications at Crucial Learning. These employees can make your job challenging and make it miserable for everyone else on your team.

If you could use some help navigating life with a difficult direct report, read on. We share Maxfield’s suggestions on how to work with these employees in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Remember your responsibility. As a leader, it’s your job to ensure that you have good working relationships with your team members. If you have a strained relationship or you’re not seeing the results you’d like with one of your employees, it’s up to you to improve the situation. A difficult direct report isn’t something you can just overcome, notes Maxfield. It takes uncomfortable conversations and effort.

Schedule a one-on-one. When possible, try to have a face-to-face conversation with the employee. Avoid sending an email or adding it on to a regular one-on-one meeting, advises Maxfield. You can request a meeting by simply saying, “Hey Tim. I have something on my mind I want to talk to you about. When do you have some time this week?”

Assume the best. The employee may not know they’re making life difficult for you or others. Always approach the conversation as a curious mentor rather than an angry boss, recommends Maxfield.

Watch your words. When talking with the employee, avoid words such as “difficult” and “not a team player.” Maxfield says you can begin by saying something like, “I’m not sure you’re even aware, but …” She says this allows your direct report a chance to process the feedback without reacting to labels.

Don’t jump to conclusions. While it may seem that your team gets along with everyone except for the difficult employee, this conclusion could be wrong. Instead, aim to speak with facts. You could say something like, “I notice you often interrupt others during our meetings.”

Talk about the consequences. When working with a challenging employee, try to share how their behavior or actions impact the group. For example, if this individual is aggressive or rude with colleagues, explain how this can damage their professional reputation. Don’t jump straight into disciplinary action, advises Maxfield. Give the employee a chance to change their behavior first.

Ask for the employee’s viewpoint. The employee who might be challenging to you (and everyone else on your team) may see the issue differently. As a leader, it’s important to see things from their point of view. By allowing the employee to respond, you’re poised to have a healthy conversation, says Maxwell.

All it takes is one difficult employee to cause discord. Remember that it’s up to you as the leader to take steps to resolve the issue. Start by having a conversation with the employee. Address your concerns and then listen for their perspective. With the right approach, you can improve your working relationship with a difficult direct report and bring harmony back to your team.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Brittney Maxfield is the senior director of marketing communications at Crucial Learning.


filed under September 2021
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