Author and psychiatrist Jody Foster knows a thing or two when it comes to dealing with difficult employees. In fact, her book The Schmuck in my Office, is dedicated to addressing and managing people who drive us insane.
As a leader, you have to get results from all these different personalities, no matter what. To do just that, Foster suggests understanding what causes the behavior first and then using that knowledge to change it.
Here’s how to get started:
Difficult employee #1: The Narcissist
Almost every office has one – the Narcissist. A little narcissism never killed anyone. But when it turns into an ego-hungry, entitled monster, it becomes a problem.
Usually, that inflated ego is hiding one thing: insecurity.
The best way to deal with the Narcissist is to play into his ego a little bit. Instead of attacking the person, give him a compliment first.
“You need to respond to their demands quietly as ego is so fragile,” Foster said.
Try saying something like: You did an excellent job with the Murphy account. They really praised all the effort you put into your presentation. Just keep this in mind going forward ….
Difficult employee #2: The Doubtful Debbie
Ever have one of those employees who just looks for trouble? She’s always on the lookout for someone exploiting something or deceiving someone. Even worse, she might wrongly think that person is you.
When communicating with her, make sure you spell everything out clearly and descriptively. You want to give clear explanations for any decisions you’re relaying, too. That way, there won’t be any room for miscommunication.
Difficult employee #3: The Drama Queen/King
If you have a Drama Queen/King in your office, you’ll hear phrases like:
- “You will never believe what happened … “
- “Wow, I’ve never noticed that mole on your arm. Are you sure it’s not cancer?”
- “My husband’s traveling for work and didn’t answer his phone. Do you think he’s cheating?”
- “Did you hear … “
Your best bet is to deal with the Drama Queen or King head-on.
Have a one-on-one meeting with the person, spelling out specific actions and instances where he or she turned a molehill into a mountain.
Let the person know this behavior won’t be tolerated and you expect to see a change immediately. The key here: Follow up often to let the Drama Queen/King know you’re always keeping an eye on things.
If necessary, get even more support from HR.