Ever had a boss that you couldn't stand? Or a direct report who you just couldn't get through to? Of course you have - everyone has if they've ever worked. As a manager of employees, one of the biggest challenges is dealing with difficult employees.
There are hundreds of different types of difficult employees - from the poor performer to the gossiper, the backstabber, the uninspired, the jerk - and we often dread having to deal with the difficult employee. Why can't everyone just behave like good little foot soldiers? The answer is simple - we are all unique. You cannot expect every employee to act, think or do the same things in the same ways that you do. Only fools believe that a cookie-cutter approach to employee relations works. What you must understand is that there are thousands of reasons that can create the hundreds of different types of difficult employees, but the single most important reason is YOU.
Have you ever been a difficult employee? I guarantee it. Being a difficult employee doesn't mean that you are a bad employee - it just means that you are difficult for someone to manage, work for or work with. Chances are, there is someone at your work that can't stand you, just as there is probably someone that you work with that makes your skin crawl. Should this bother you? Well, if the person that can't stand you is your boss, or if you can't stand your boss, then you probably have a problem. Most employees don't get fired because of actual poor performance - they get fired for what is perceived as poor performance by someone who doesn't see eye-to-eye with them. Great employees get fired every day because they become a difficult employee for someone.
Being a difficult employee can be caused by your family, your co-workers, your environment, your company, your boss, or many other reasons. For example, birth order can determine your personality type, which can determine what types of employees you work well with and which ones you won't. How your parents treated you as a child certainly influences who you are as an adult. Your political views can make you a difficult employee for some. There are thousands of reasons why employees are difficult to manage, which further shows the difficulty in identifying the WHY in "Why the heck is this employee acting like this?"
In most instances, identifying the cause of a difficult employee can be found by looking in the mirror. What have you done to make the person that you work with believe you are a difficult employee? What have you done, or not done, which has caused an employee to become a difficult employee? If you're honest with yourself and search hard enough, you will find the answers. Most managers of people, however, don't want to know the answers. Do you want to know the answers?
Great managers understand and accept responsibility for the birth of a difficult employee. Bad managers blame the employee without understanding what has caused that employee to become difficult. Great managers ask why five times to get to a root cause. Bad managers accept rumors or opinions as facts and act without thought or full comprehension of the situation. Great managers have very few difficult employees. Bad managers have nothing but difficult employees.
There are a lot of managers in the world, but only a small percentage of them are great managers. Are you a difficult employee? Yes, you are to someone. If you want to be a great manager, you must first understand WHY you are a difficult employee. It is only through this understanding that you will become a great manager, and is the reason that most managers are not great.