Most people who have managed for any length of time have had to deal with a ‘difficult’ employee. The term difficult employee, of course, can cover a lot of ground – including bad attitudes, incompetence, laziness, disruptive behavior, poor teamwork, and so on.

Unfortunately, a lot of times, these difficult employees are self-inflicted wounds. That is to say – their behavior and actions are often a response to our behavior and actions. Here are three things you can do to reduce the number of difficult employee situations you encounter:

1. Clearly explain your expectations to all employees, confirm they are understood, then accept nothing less. If you don’t take your standards seriously, it’s unfair to expect your employees to. Make sure you apply this principle equally.

2. Continuous coaching. Employee performance will improve dramatically when you are making a daily effort to assist and encourage them to achieve their potential . We refer to it as ‘Behind the Bench’ coaching.

3. Appreciate employees’ efforts. Acknowledge their contributions. The single, number one reason people leave organizations is because they believe their efforts are not appreciated. It’s also the most common cause of employee morale and discipline issues.

For whatever reason, we managers seem to really struggle with this. Don’t be shy with legitimate, earned praise. You’ll likely never hear an employee say, “I hate this place! My manager says way too many nice things about the work I do.”

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