Ben Bierman
Ben Bierman

Dealing with difficult employees

By Ben Bierman Time of article published Oct 14, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - An essential  element of a good business is to manage staff effectively. This is however not always be easy. Sometimes businesses have to grapple with a difficult, uncooperative or confrontational employee.  

In the event of this happening, it is vital to handle the situation correctly and timeously, because one uncommitted employee could ultimately taint the entire business and decrease team productivity, bringing down morale, or putting strain on important stakeholder relationships. Even though it can be frustrating and at times uncomfortable, businesses need to be prepared for such a reality. 

These simple tips can help ensure that businesses are fully equipped to deal with this kind of situation:


Taking the path of less resistance will likely only aggravate the situation, so try to approach the matter head on, as quickly as possible.


Every company should have an HR policy to follow as a guide. Remember to remain professional and keep things above board to protect your company from a legal standpoint and prevent a “he said, she said” situation from transpiring.


You can only improve the situation when you have the clearest possible understanding of it. Taking the time to listen to the employee’s point of view not only assists with solving the problem, but helps to identify broader business issues that need to be addressed.


It is possible – even likely – that the employee has redeeming qualities and, if better managed, could still provide value to the company. Approach the situation with a positive outlook and use constructive feedback to allow them the chance to improve.


While feedback is vital, criticism may provoke a defensive response.When pointing out problematic behaviour, provide clear examples and offer specific instructions on what employees needs to work on.


Look out for any change in employee conduct (or lack thereof), and schedule regular check-ins so that they feel sufficiently supported. Follow-through on any consequences laid out in feedback meetings so that employees understands what will and won’t be tolerated.


If problematic behaviour continues and the situation shows no signs of improvement, look at all possibilities including terminating the contract permanently. Make sure to cross all you t’s and dot your i’s when doing this – even if it means seeking legal advice.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.


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