How to Effectively Manage Difficult Employees: The Excuse-Maker

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There are certain employees that some managers may consider unmanageable. Sure, difficult employees give managers a chance to refine their skills, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with them.

Jezra Kaye and I wrote a book to help managers with a category of employees that we call “The Unmanageables.” The book, called Managing the Unmanageable: How to Motivate Even the Most Unruly Employee, holds information on common (difficult) employee personality types and specific tactics that will help managers deal with those personality types.

Let’s take a minute to meet one famously unmanageable employee (UE) that we call, The Excuse-Maker. One key element to this UE is that nothing is ever his fault. How is that possible? Well, nothing can possibly be his fault because it’s his colleague’s fault, the client’s fault and sometimes—it’s your fault.  Even inanimate objects like computers and printers can take the blame.

How to manage a difficult employee who always makes excusesIt’s difficult to improve the performance of an employee who won’t take any responsibility for his actions. What to do? Turn to the 5 C’s for help:

1. Commit or Quit: The first choice a manager faces, with any UE, is the choice of whether to try to retain the UE or not.   This is a matter that requires careful thinking.  After all, you’re weighing the costs and benefits of taking on a major challenge (UE salvage) against the costs and benefits of starting from scratch by finding and hiring a new employee.  This decision is a significant one, because UE salvage, if you decide to attempt it, requires that you make a firm and serious commitment to your unmanageable employee’s future. Why commit to someone you might not even like? Here’s why.

2. Communicate: Assuming that you’ve committed to working with The Excuse-Maker, you are now engaged in a UE salvage operation.  Your next step is one that most people don’t enjoy much — a frank and open conversation with the person who’s been making their life hell. Where do you start? Read what this conversation should look like here.

3. Clarify Goals and Roles: It’s not safe to assume employees know exactly what is expected of them. Problems arise when employees “know” things that aren’t true — and become frustrated that what they “know” should be happening, isn’t. Read more about what you might discover when you and your UE discuss his responsibilities and goals.

4. Coach: When you’ve clarified your UE’s roles and goals, in some cases they will self-correct. However, for this correction to be long term, the inner attitudes that contribute to the un-manageability need to be examined. That’s where coaching comes in; here’s more about it.

5. Create Accountability: Your final step toward managing The Excuse-Maker and other UEs is to create accountability. Why? Shifts in behavior are rarely permanent, and most people will begin to backslide almost immediately if left to their own devices. Here’s how to prevent that behavioral backslide by creating accountability.

Manage unmanageable employees with these steps: Commit or Quit, Communicate, Clarify Goals and Roles, Coach, Create Accountability

These five tactics are helpful with all unmanageable employees, some of whom you may have not even met yet. For example, have you met The AWOL? How abut The Grumbler? If you haven’t had the opportunity to manage The Egomaniac, consider yourself lucky (but not in the clear.) There is also the wonderful Rude-Nik, who makes everything so much fun. Of course, there are many more difficult employees to look forward to. I love to speak about difficult employees too! Stay tuned.

Of the UEs mentioned, who have you been fortunate enough to manage? What worked for you? I’d love for all of us to share their management knowledge. Please send me an email, or tweet me with your own tips!

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