Blog > HR Best Practices

How to Handle Difficult Employees

One of the hardest aspects of owning a small business is hiring and training qualified employees. Small business owners are dependent on their employees to represent the company but often can’t offer the perks and benefits of larger companies. When an employee is becoming difficult, it can be tempting to simply cut him or her loose. But finding and training an employee is an investment of time and money. If possible, sticking with your initial investment—that is the employee—is a better course of action. Here are some steps small business owners can take to handle difficult employees.

1. Consult a lawyer or human relations expert

Most small businesses don’t have the luxury of an HR department. Before you hire your first employee, make sure you have a full understanding of the laws about employment in your city and state. If you have a particularly difficult employee problem, you may wish to talk to a lawyer to make sure you handle the situation appropriately.

2. Determine the cause

If a previously good employee has suddenly become difficult, try to find out why. Has something changed at your business? Even a minor change such as opening or closing an hour earlier or later may have ramifications for an hourly employee. Or maybe a change was made without consulting her, and she feels under appreciated. The trouble may not have anything to do with work but may be personal.

3. Be clear and kind

If you’re unhappy with an employee it’s unfair to the employee for you not to share that information. Make sure though that you don’t pile on with a list of complaints. Start by praising things the employee does well and then express your concerns.

4. Be firm about expectations

Before talking to your employee, make sure to decide how you will evaluate improvement. Communicate these expectations to your employee.

5. Set times to check in

This problem didn’t happen overnight, so it won’t be solved overnight. Set regular meetings to evaluate the employee’s progress and continue to be clear and kind in expressing what’s going well and what isn’t.

Of course, the best way to avoid difficult employees is to be careful in your hiring and training practices. Make sure you give all your employees every chance to succeed!