Dealing with a Difficult Employee–Tips?

posted 2 years ago in Career
Post # 2
610 posts
Busy bee

Can the organization run without her? How important is she? Can others take on some load while you train a new person? Negativity spreads very quickly in the organizatjon. I would build a case to fire her and replace with someone more compliant with the culture. 

Post # 4
1570 posts
Bumble bee

You can’t avoid a contentious relationship, so forget that. And don’t let her knowledge and age throw you off. It does not matter. She is there to do a job, and part of everyone’s job is to be professional. She is not being professional. Stick to the facts, and when she starts trying to derail the conversation, say “We’re not here to discuss that. We’re here to discus x, y, and z.”  Say that as many times as needed. Be the broken record. I’ve done it and it works. It is her choice whether she wakes up and changes or loses her job.

I recently worked with someone I called a shit stirrer. Something would happen and she would go to every person in the office to talk about it and put her negative, gossipy spin on it. The last time she came into my office and spewed her shit, I just looked at her and said “And?….” Then silence. She mumbled something and left my office. Not too long later, she got another job, and I am not kidding, the positive change in the office was palpable. Like some black cloud had moved on. Negativity is hugely damaging and kills morale.

ETA: In counseling sessions like this, the person being counseled will also try to bring up coworkers behavior. “Well she does this and he does that”… Again: “We’re not here to discuss that, we’re here to discuss x, y, and z.”

Post # 5
2681 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

I suspect if you don’t accomodate her request to work from home, she’ll eventually quit and your problem will be solved.

Post # 7
4494 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

I manage a very talented and experienced employee who has a tendency to sulk, throw temper tantrums, and generally cause turmoil when she doesn’t like how things are going. Finally, after one of her outbursts, I had to sit her down and basically tell her my expectations for behavior and attitude in the workplace. I ended with “These are the expectations here. If you can’t handle that, then you may need to find somewhere that’s a better fit for you. The choice is yours.”

I HATE confrontation and it was terrifying, especially because she’s older than me and been with the organization longer.  I also wasn’t 100 percent sure she would come in to work the next day or not. But she showed up and has been mostly better behaved… and MY boss said I handled it perfectly, so there’s that.

My advice:

At your check-in, be firm, feel free to mention her attitude because that’s part of performance, and be direct – ask her if she has a problem or issue with your management that she’d like to address. That puts her on the spot and even if she says no, you point out that her attitude needs to reflect that, then. Also, she can’t argue that you didn’t try to work with her on xyz issue.

Post # 8
2198 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2019 - Chateau Lake Louise

annonbee857 : This is so tough. On the one hand, it sounds like she has a knowledge base that is pretty valuable to the organization. On the other, that skillset is embedded in an attitude which is deeply negative and counter-productive. Since these things seem to be inextricable, you get down to calculating brass-tacks cost/benefit ratio analysis.

A person who likes their job and feels good about their work isn’t usually so negative or oppositional. The behavior you describe is that of someone working a job where they feel imposed upon, disregarded, and like the only way to be heard is to aggressively declare her opinions. Along with the explicit reminder of the source her authority to do so – her greater age and experience. 

It may be a generational thing, it may be an issue of temperament, or she may just be profoundly resentful to be under the supervision of someone younger and less experienced than she is. It’s hard to know if that’s something you’ll be able to tease out without asking her directly, and maybe not even then.

My approach would be to simply confront the fact that she seems unhappy. Tell her sincerely that you are concerned about her. That your impression is that her conduct seems to suggest she’s unsatisfied. That you are trying to understand what you can do as a manager to support her better and create a healthier communication style between you and a more harmonius work environment for everyone. 

I would point out she doesn’t seem comfortable with the collaborative style of the office culture. That her desire to work from home is understandable, but that isn’t a model that fits well with the ethos of the organization. Then I’d bring it around to asking her outright if she feels satisfied with her position. Try to coax her into explicitly stating her complaints. Likely they won’t be things that can be “fixed” but If she’s prompted to voice her concerns, it might allow you to suggest she might consider whether she might be happier elsewhere. 

Not as a threat. Honestly, as a way to genuinely ask the question and try to get her to do likewise. At the same time, it might nudge her to the realization she isn’t irreplaceable, that her attitude is palpable and problematic, and that maybe she might want to reflect on the outcome she most wants.

Negativity is definitely a challenge to contend with. It has a tendency to spread like wildfire. Hopefully this will allow you to eliminate, or at least contain hers. Good luck on this one. 

Post # 9
1303 posts
Bumble bee

I think first and foremost I would arrange a meeting with her and ask her if there’s anything she’s unhappy with or that she’d like you to change, to actually try and get to the root of her why she is so negative and abrassive. If she doesn’t bring up anything concrete then I would talk about her attitude and the effect it has on the team and working environment.

I feel like often, employees are negative because they’re deeply unhappy with work and feel as though the only way to be heard is to complain or kick off about something. It’s not fair to just say “This is employee needs to be more positive or I’m going to fire her” without trying to understand why they are negative to begin with. 

Post # 11
1662 posts
Bumble bee

Nope- 5-6 times a year is 5-6 times too many. Experienced or not, she needs to recognize and respect that you’re the boss or she needs to be let go. No one in an organization is ever so important that they can’t be replaced. There’s a reason why you’re the boss and she’s not. Catering to these types of people does absolutely no good to anyone, their attitudes and egos just continue to inflate while others who are professional and respectful get resentful. You need to nip this in the bud now! I would suggest meeting with her and telling her that you appreciate her work and her experience, but if she can’t learn to respect you as a boss that she will be terminated. Give her examples of how she has undermined you, and give her a timeline and specifics to work on. Regroup after the timeline and if things haven’t improved, you need to fire her.

Post # 12
276 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2016

I would give her a chance to turn it around… Maybe have a very frank discussion with her and monitor her behavior over the next 15-30 days. Document everything during this time so that you can objectively check for improvement. 


It it sounds like she is a TOXIC person in your org. Read a few papers about how to deal with toxicity. One bad apple will spoil the whole bunch if you let it get too far. It doesn’t matter who the person is, now qualified they are, or how long they’ve worked there. There is never room for a toxic person and the rest of the team probably notices/is affected by her behavior. 


Be prepared to let her go after confronting her. She may become angry and spread her angst with workplace gossip. This can ruin your culture. 

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