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Workplace conflict is inevitable. The problem is it can be quite costly and eats away at profits. A study from CPP Inc. found that “U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict. This amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on average hourly earnings of $17.95), or the equivalent of 385 million working days.” Here’s what you should do if you encounter a difficult employee to ensure it doesn’t drag down the rest of your team’s production.

Document Behavioral Issues

If you’re at all familiar with the fundamental tenets of HR, you know how important documentation is. You need to maintain consistent documentation of specific behavioral issues and keep that information on file. If it ever comes to the point you need to terminate an employee, this will be a necessity to prove they were let go because of their behavior and it wasn’t related to discrimination of any kind.

Confront the Person

Once you know for certain you’re dealing with a problem employee, it’s important you address the issue head on. The last thing you want to do is allow the problem to drag on and create a toxic working environment for the rest of your staff. Ideally, you’ll hold a private meeting that’s out of earshot of other employees.

Focus on the Behavior, Not the Person

This may sound somewhat trite, but’s an essential tactic for rectifying workplace problems. Be sure you’re not launching a personal attack, but instead calling out the behavior. This should make your employee less likely to lash out and be more receptive to feedback.

Provide Clear Feedback

At this point, you’ll want to explain the magnitude of the situation. For instance, you might say the employee’s consistent rude and disrespectful remarks are bringing other staff members down and hurting morale.

You should then explain this type of behavior is extremely disruptive and simply won’t be tolerated. Whatever specific points you make, be sure it “connects the dots” for the employee so they understand the negative impact their behavior is having.

Explain the Consequences

Finally, it’s time to clarify what will happen if the behavior continues. Typically, you’ll just want to provide a verbal warning the first time around. But you might point out that any future instances will result in termination. As always, be sure to document everything that transpired during your discussion.

There’s bound to be friction in the workplace at some point, and you’re going to encounter difficult personalities. Taking the right approach and swiftly handling the situation should minimize any backlash and keep your company moving in a positive direction.


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