Blog >
How to Deal with Difficult Employees


How to Deal with Difficult Employees

Dealing with difficult employees is not a pleasant experience, however,  in this article, Zahra Abdullah provides practical tips on how to approach employees with a negative attitude and turn the situation around. 

In my coaching conversations with leaders, we sometimes have to deal with problems concerning their employees’ attitudes. I’ve often heard a person I’m coaching say something like this: “I have an employee who has an attitude, and their negativity is preventing me from relating to them in productive ways. I find it hard to greet them in the morning, have casual chats throughout the day, or give them needed developmental feedback.”

The question is, “How can you as a manager best handle such situations? Is there a productive way to give a negative employee feedback about their attitude?”

My recommendations on how to manage an employee with a negative attitude:

Step #1: Understand the reason 

Ask yourself, “Why is this person behaving this way?” Here are some possible reasons:

Reason #1 – The person may be unhappy with the company itself, or with a recent organizational change, or with their own position in the company, or with your leadership style.

Reason #2 – The person may be struggling with personal or life challenges that prevent them from bringing their best self to work.

Reasons #3 – The person may have some misconceptions (based on stereotypes, different cultural expectations, etc.) about how they should behave at work; for example, they may believe they should not smile, be authentic, or interact with you as their manager.

Step #2: Address the problem indirectly and gradually

Of course, you can’t simply ask someone to smile more or be nice to you when you greet them. But you can do the following:

  1. Schedule regular check-ins with the employee to uncover the reason for their negative attitude, learn more about them as a person, and ask permission to coach, mentor, or help them as needed.


Key points include:

  • Root causes of attitude
  • Leadership styles
  • Addressing the problem


Read the full article, Leading an Employee Who Has a Negative Attitude, on LinkedIn.