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How to deal with difficult staff


While leaders and managers play an important role in creating the right work environment, a strained relationship with the person in charge can often lead to workplace conflict, explained Asma Bajawa, managing director of PeopleFirst, a Dubai-based human resources consulting firm.

“An employee who has a healthy relationship with their immediate manager is far more likely to be engaged in their job and prepared to work that little bit harder to make their manager happy,” she said. “If the relationship is strained, then this can lead to demotivation and resentment, which in turn can make an employee difficult to work with and manage.”

To identify and understand the problem, Bajawa recommends the following steps:

1. Be factual. Gather the facts of any incident/issue and write them down so that you can refer to them if necessary.

2. Meet with the employee in a room where there are no interruptions. Remain calm and talk to the employee about the incident/issue.

3. Ask the employee directly what the issue is. Tell the employee what you observe and how that is perceived. Ask the employee if they realise the impact of their behaviour/attitude.

4. Give an opportunity to the employee to respond and actively listen to what they are saying. 

5. Be clear and tell the employee what you expect from them. Give the employee positive feedback as they work through their objectives and things improve.

Hire right

For start-ups and SMEs, Bajawa recognizes that hiring and firing can be an expensive process. To avoid recruiting difficult employees, or to prevent difficult personalities developing in the workplace, the HR specialist said it is important to try and get it right first time. Here’s how:

  1. What are the skills you are looking for in hiring? Try and define “must have” and “nice to have” attributes so that you can shortlist only candidates that have what is necessary. Anyone with “nice to have” aspects will be a bonus.
  2. Think about how you will assess “must have” and “nice to have” skills.
  3. Try to define the personal attributes important for the job role and for the team fit.
  4. Try not to rush recruitment decisions. Conduct reference checks for anyone you want to hire.
  5. Consider using psychometric tests. The personality profile can help you assess a candidate’s suitability and team fit. These are good indicators of how an employee might behave in various scenarios.

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