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This is in response to Managing the 'Difficult' Employee.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
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Since most first- and second-line supervisors have not been properly trained on this matter and with the increase in work place violence incidents, this is a particularly tough supervisory/HR problem for which there is no easy answer.

Your advice to get the Legal department involved should start at the very outset of any interaction with the employee regarding the problem. It is best to start any interaction when his/her behavioral actions have caused a performance-related deficiency for the employee, his/her peers or the department itself.

In this context, it is easier to point out the need for behavioral change when it can be easily demonstrated how his/her behavior has negatively affected performance. If use of the employee-assistance program will occur, initially it should be as a suggestion and not a mandate depending on the severity of the performance deficiency.

Obviously, each step in the performance counseling process should be carefully documented and reviewed with the Legal department.

Identifying any such employee in the interviewing process is typically a very difficult task for any interviewer as most, if not all, interviewees are behaving at their best in the interviews. Therefore, the problem is best dealt with by finding the best job fit for the employee.

As mentioned, since many such employees are well educated and, more importantly, are extremely critical of any work-related procedure and process, it is best to try to take advantage of these traits by placing them into an analytical position, such as Programmer Analyst, Quality Control Analyst, Market Research Analyst, Product Design Analyst, etc.

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Their natural tendency to identify all the negative aspects of a procedure or process can really come in handy in such a job.

In addition, they can be very valuable on a task force or project that is tackling a difficult technical or business problem where their skills can help identify the cause of the problem as well as a recommended solution to it. In this regard, a strong yet understanding Task Force Leader is required.

Even if all of the above appropriate actions are taken by the supervisor, managing such an employee will still be a difficult task. The supervisor will have the tough task of frequently overseeing the employee's work activities while not appearing to do so. The supervisor will need all the help and understanding that he/she can get.

Jack Bucalo

Retired CHRO

Fiserv, Inc.

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