Turning Difficult Employees Around

"I'm sick of it! They won't do their job! Why can't they get it? I'm so tired of having to depend on them in order for me to make money!"

This was me not all that long ago. I was angry, irritated and frustrated that my people were grumpy, negative, gossiping and unproductive. What was the matter with them? Then all of a sudden it hit me...this included me. I was complaining about them, and I was the leader. I realized that it wasn't up to them whether or not I made money - it was up to me. The same goes for any leader.

Now that doesn't mean that, as a leader, you should take the world by force and mow down anyone who gets in your way. It means you should stop blaming everyone else for what's happening and realize that you are completely in charge of how things turn out. The way to correct what's not happening with your employees is to improve the way you're leading them.

As a leader, I realized that my success was up to me and was going to be determined by my ability to lead my people correctly; by how I chose to see them; and by proper understanding of and communication with the contrary ones.

How do you turn difficult people around?
The most important guideline for leaders is to look at yourself first. Have you kept your word? Are you doing everything you can so the business will be everything you told them it would be? Are you-doing a great orientation during which you tell a new hire what to expect from the position, you and the company? Do new hires know why you chose them for the position?

Statistics prove people need to feel appreciated. They need to be in on things, and they need to know that someone really cares about their future and getting them to their goals. They want to have fun at work, and they need flexibility. If your business isn't delivering on these things, I've found that difficult people are the result.

How's your training program?
Do you tell employees how to do something, show them how, do it with them and then let them go solo? When this process is followed, confidence is the result.

The question isn't, "Are you teaching?" The question is, "Are they learning?" You can only call yourself a leader if others are following you with success. Praise for tiny accomplishments, not just big ones. Give one or two things to learn rather than overwhelming with too much. This takes a bit longer, but you'll train far less often this way, and you'll end up with incredibly productive, happy people.

Is the atmosphere of your business conducive to productive employees or difficult ones?
Understand that motivation is a must, but that it comes from within. You, as the leader, need to provide opportunities for motivation (books, tapes, lunch with owner, etc.). Most importantly, though, you must train, hold employees accountable, and reward on an ongoing basis. If all three elements aren't present, difficulty will result.

When proper training takes place, a person believes the job can be done, and has the confidence to do it. When there is accountability, you have a system for checking so that you can head off insecurities and, therefore, eliminate complaints if a task isn't being done. Give help, and communication stays open. And when rewards are available (praise, money, recognition, etc.), my experience has been that the difficult person fades and a productive one appears.

Donna Krech is co-founder and CEO of Victory Management Inc., a corporation that owns and licenses women's fitness clubs, weight-management centers and natural-food outlets across the Midwest.


Your Choices

You have four choices when employees get difficult. But remember that each one gives you a different outcome, so choose carefully.

1. Do nothing but complain (which will lower morale and productivity).

2. Walk away, if it's just getting worse.

3. Change your attitude about how you see employees (necessary for step four).

4. Change your behavior when dealing with them.


Five Simple Steps

In order to understand and communicate, you have to:

1. Blend
2. Backtrack
3. Clarify
4. Summarize
5. Confirm


The Plan

The following is a step-by-step plan for being a leader who gets the most from employees.

1. Look at you first.
2. Relay your mission and vision.
3. Understand that different types behave differently under pressure.
4. Understand and communicate.
5. Make it your goal to get employees to theirs.
6. Have a follow-up plan.
7. Provide an ongoing H.A.P. (Help, regular Appreciation and abundant Praise) atmosphere.