You’ve put in the long hours, been promoted a time or two, and difficult employees still seem to follow you! Whether they complain all the time, gripe about the way in which you lead or show you attitude when you convey what you need, difficult employees are not easy ones to lead. However, if they follow you from team to team it seems, here are three immediate pieces of advice you need and quickly want to heed.
Notice the Reflection
Those you lead reflect your style of leadership. Whether Maxwellian, Situational, Transformational, Contagious, Posner-ish, or Druckerfied, your leadership style is showing up in the team you have the privilege of leading. In fact, the difficult employees are also reflecting how well or IF you are meeting their needs and giving them what they keep subtly (or not so much) keep saying they’ve been needing. This does not say that difficult employees are all your fault. The reflection found in the employees you keep around tells anyone who’s paying attention whether you’re willing to address the tough stuff; whether you’re setting healthy boundaries; and whether or not you’re surrounding yourself with those who respond well to the way in which you lead. Take the time to notice and examine who they are and what they do, or don’t’ do, says directly about you?
If employees take you down a rabbit trail, or the path of least resistance, each time you talk with them, it’s usually because you’ve trained them how to treat you. Are they easily distracting you from the topic at hand? This may mean you’ve not dealt with the real issue. Do you want to? Try using the phrase “outside the scope” or saying “that (or they) is outside the scope of our conversation. Right now this is all about you” to keep them on track. But, also take a moment to look back. How often have you deflected a problem with another project? Put off facing a problem employee or addressing an issue in favor or something much more appealing. This is a passive leadership style and will foster more problems to pop up more frequently time after time. The real solution here is to recognize that when the fear of what you think you have to handle is less than the pain of what you’re handling now, you’ll make a change. In the meantime, the behaviors, the problems, and the complaints will remain the same. Where have you allowed yourself to be distracted by issues that don’t really matter?
Use Caution with Rejection
Some leaders walk around with a real need for everyone they lead to like them. On the surface, this is a fine approach, except for when it becomes a leader’s driving force. If problem employees have stuck around far too long and operational problems seem to go on and on because you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, this is where you’ll lose. Those problems will be something for which you are responsible and eventually, that fear of rejection will limit your career trajectory. An effective leader has developed confidence along with humility and would not dare say “I don’t care if you don’t like me”, but secretly is okay with that reality. They don’t fear rejection, but do strive to keep everyone’s attention, as well as employ a healthy dose of rapport and mutual respect. What they don’t do is make decisions based on whether or not everyone will agree. Where have you let rejection rule how you lead the team or that employee? Being a leader is a privilege and responsibility. Not only is everything we see, say, do, think, and how we behave, contagious and rubbing off on those we lead, what we don’t do shows up in those we lead, too. You are a reflection of the people you surround yourself with and those you lead are a clear reflection of how well you’re leading.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!