It’s hard being a boss: Part 1 – Managing difficult employees

Part One of Two – It’s tough being a manager when you have to deal with difficult people in the workplace.

But this is something that occurs in all businesses. Here at Intrepidus we have assisted many companies in dealing with difficult employees – from businesses with less than 10 employees to organisations of many thousands of people.


The effect of difficult and negative employees

Difficult and negative employees can affect the whole workplace, draining managers and colleagues alike. If left unchecked, they can have a big impact on workplace morale, reducing productivity and eventually creating problems in attracting and retaining both staff and customers.

Intrepidus can assist you to develop a people management plan – this may involve steps to improve the employee’s behaviour and/or performance or to assist with exiting the difficult employee from the business. Sometimes the person just does not fit, but regardless we ensure there is procedural fairness and a proper investigation prior to reaching that conclusion.


What to do

A performance improvement plan typically takes 30 to 90 days to complete and potentially should be used as a strategy for handling all types of difficult employees. The plan should outline the reasons for change and opportunities for growth and should hold the employee to account for their behaviour. A regular review of their progress should be undertaken with the employee, either weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on the situation.

If the employee is keen to improve the situation, they will listen to your explanations, so be sure to focus on the under-performance and/or inappropriate behaviour, explaining how the behaviours affect co-workers and the business. Ensure that you acknowledge their feelings and listen to their responses. Assure them that you are there to support and assist them in modifying their behaviours and reaching performance expectations.

It is important when discussing under-performance and inappropriate behaviour with an employee to investigate if there is something in their personal or work life that is causing problems. Even if they don’t offer any reason, it is vital that they know you are willing to assist them to be successful, and that this offer of support is genuine. Meeting regularly for one-on-one feedback gives the employee an opportunity to discuss their frustrations and to make progress in a safe environment. In these meeting you can acknowledge and agree upon appropriate strategies, including the behaviour that needs to be adopted and resources that can be utilised to achieve this. Be sure to discuss solutions as well as the consequences of not changing the behaviour.

If the person does not care about making any improvements, holding them to account and undertaking regular reviews will normally result in them moving on. If they don’t leave, you may have to issue formal warnings to achieve a managed exit.

If you have any comments of require assistance contact or email Intrepidus.

Be sure to read our next blog in this series: It’s hard being a boss – Part 2 – Seven types of difficult employees.


Design • Implement • Support

Through our blog, we wish to give you a comprehensive insight into the world of Intrepidus HR, where our overall goal is to inspire businesses to improve themselves and their people.

Do you wish to discuss a particular business improvement topic or even contribute a guest Blog article? If yes, please contact Simon Campbell at Intrepidus Human Resource Consulting.

If you or your organisation requires input or assistance in establishing or enhancing your positive organisational culture, please contact Intrepidus Human Resources Consulting for assistance.  Intrepidus can assist with the design, implementation and support of employee surveys, analysis and action plans, employee briefings, and employee communication and engagement initiatives. 

Furthermore, contact Intrepidus for assistance with one on one performance feedback for teams and individuals and all your complex human work issues.


Human Resources – Industrial Relations – Recruitment

Contact or email Intrepidus with your request for human resource, industrial relations or recruitment support or any other enquiry.

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See our Case Studies for more articles on HR topics handled by Intrepidus Human Resource Consulting


Intrepidus Human Resource Consulting

Intrepidus is a human resources and industrial relations consultancy based out of Melbourne. We help clients with difficult people issues, HR & IR strategy, and more. If you want to find out how we assist with workplace issues, you can contact us at  or give us a ring on +61 401 716 818.