How To Deal With A Difficult Employee On Your Management Team

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Being the manager of a mobile home park is no easy task. However, one thing that can make your job much more challenging is a difficult employee. It may be because of personal circumstances or workplace dissatisfaction. Regardless, confronting an employee and attempting to change their behavior is a challenging and sensitive process. That’s why it’s so important to know how to deal with a difficult employee.

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Some of the signs of a “difficult employee” can be:

  • Frequent complaints by other employees or mobile home park tenants.
  • An overall negative attitude towards their work or the company.
  • Behavior that seems aimed at challenging your authority.
  • Confrontations with other staff members or tenants become regular occurrences.
  • A perceived unwillingness to complete work-related tasks or a general sense of laziness.

Every story has two sides

First and foremost, you should always remember that you don’t know all the circumstances of your employee. There might be new or temporary circumstances or events in the employee’s personal life prompting this change in behavior and attitude. These might have nothing to do with their job at your park. This is most often the case if an employee was never difficult or behaved badly before.

In this case, you might be able to affect a turnaround in your employee’s attitude or behavior simply by taking an interest and supporting them. Whatever the case may be, it’s best to get to the root of the behavior as soon as possible. Maybe your employee is disgruntled or unfulfilled in their work. If this is the case, see how you can accommodate them better. Or you may know from the start that it’s best for both to separate ways.

Of course, there might be something about how you run the park that doesn’t sit well with employees. And talking to the difficult employee can alert you to it sooner.

Don’t complain to other staff without doing anything

One of the worst ways a boss or manager can handle a difficult employee is to complain about them, especially to other staff, but do nothing about it. All this does is fuel workplace hostility and cultivates the image of you as a difficult boss. Employees might think: “If this is what my boss says about other employees, what does he say about me?”

In the worst case scenario, it could turn more employees against you or split your staff into camps. Your first step when noticing repeat problem behavior with an employee is to air it directly with them. Never discuss it with the other staff. For one thing, you never know how they may interpret what you say or what they’ll pass along. Complaining and not doing anything might make others think you are treating the difficult employee preferentially. Furthermore, you’ll look like a manager who is ineffective or not willing to face problems head-on.

Along the same lines, never ever stoop to bad-mouthing the employee in question. It’s unprofessional. And you’re more likely to lose respect and standing among your employees than compel any sort of agreement.

Make sure you have proof

It’s important that you start documenting the employee’s behavior if it’s serious enough to warrant remembering. This will definitely help you in case it becomes a legal matter. And it will prevent it from becoming a “he said, she said” situation. You’ll be able to confidently and directly confront the employee by pointing to specific circumstances.

Discussion in a restaurant

For your evidence to stand up, make sure that you detail as much of the circumstances as well as the date, time, and witnesses (if any). If you feel comfortable that you can trust one of these witnesses by talking to them, make sure they’ll corroborate your account. If it’s other staff members making the complaint about a specific employee, make sure you get the same kind of detail from them. Try and be sensitive to whether each account is actually a symptom of their bad behavior or just a normal human reaction.

Lastly, make sure you clearly distinguish in what way they fall short. Is it unwillingness? Stubbornness? Arrogance?

Consistency is key

Although we like to see ourselves as fair and infallible, we almost always have our own prejudices or perceptions that color how we see things. This is especially true when it comes to other peoples’ behavior. That’s why, as a manager, it’s absolutely crucial that you try to be as unbiased as possible evaluating your staff members’ behavior.

It’s extremely important to use the exact same ruler to measure all of your employees’ performance, attitude, and behavior. It might be the case that you were simply drawn to negative signs from one employee. When in fact, more of your employees demonstrate the same behaviors. If that’s true, then there might be a valid workplace complaint or complaint against your style of management.

In any case, as a manager, you need to treat all employees the same way. If more than one employee misbehaves but only one gets punished, it will send very mixed and negative signals. Also, try to be consistent with past disciplinary steps. This is why it’s so important to have a code of conduct or black-and-white processes in place to deal with this kind of situation.

If you do update the rules, make sure everyone is aware of it so that your change in action doesn’t seem malicious in any way.

Give practical advice and feedback

Depending on your initial talk with said employee and the motivation for their difficult behavior, you might be able to give them real, actionable feedback. Tell the employee what changes you want to see in their behavior and how that would look. It might simply be the case that the employee thought they had to behave the way they do to protect themselves.

If you made this clear enough, if things go as far as the consequences step, you’ll be able to point to exactly how the employee failed to live up to your expectations. You’ll also be able to intervene when you see the employee slipping back into old habits and let them self-correct. On the other hand, you can help them cultivate the right attitude with positive reinforcement if you see them following your advice.

Lay down the consequences for their actions

Hopefully, you took some of the previous steps and confronted the employee as well as told them in real terms how to alter their behavior. If you still don’t see the desired effect, it might be time to make sure the employee understands there will be consequences to their actions.

There can be a whole range of consequences. It will be up to you to match the seriousness of the “crime” with the punishment. For example, you can say that staff members won’t be entitled to certain benefits (such as favorable shifts). Or perhaps they won’t be considered for a promotion. Maybe they will simply be given a warning. On the other hand, you could find grounds to ahve them suspended or even fired.

This shouldn’t be done only for the sake of honesty but also transparency. If things do get ugly, an employee can always say it’s unfair because you didn’t sufficiently warn them. That’s why it’s important to be crystal clear of what you expect and what the result would be for continued wrong behavior.

Laptop and a man waiting with hands put together

Always stick to company guidelines

This ties in nicely with the consequences we just talked about. Always (and we mean always) stick to your company guidelines and procedures. Not doing so will open you up to scrutiny and could even lead to you facing serious consequences instead of the misbehaving employee. When you hire someone, you sign a contract in which you agree on doing things a certain way. Disregarding them means that you’re just as guilty.

Not only will it help you toe the line in terms of what you can and can’t do, but it will also help you act fairly by being consistent towards all employees. Following procedures set down in ink is a much easier and more effective way to go about things than having to make judgment calls all the time.

Be fair, but firm

Being a leader is not an easy job. One of the most important “people skills” you’ll need to learn is to be professional and level-headed, even in difficult situations. At the same time, you shouldn’t be a pushover in these situations. Striking the right balance between asserting your authority and listening to and accommodating the other party is essential yet often very difficult.

Getting this right will come largely down to your demeanor when addressing the employee. Once again, if you have good company guidelines in place, this is easy to do. You’ll already have concrete points and consequences to point to. Make it clear that the situation isn’t personal but that their behavior is affecting you, the business, or the other staff members. Without being unreasonable, at the end of the day, you are the manager or “boss” which does give you the biggest say in how the business should be run.

Meditate on it

By this, we don’t mean to go sit cross-legged under a tree and hum mantras to yourself. However, if an employee’s behavior is troubling you, it helps to have a clear head when coming up with a solution or way forward. Distance yourself from any emotions you might feel and calmly sit and think it over. Try to analyze whether there might be any biases in the forming of your perception. Also, try to think of any reasons there might be.

Taking a deep breath and centering your thoughts can help you tackle the issues with greater calmness and confidence. The fact that you have given it plenty of thought will also come through in your own behavior when confronting the difficult employee.

Follow up and check on progress

If you’ve taken all the necessary steps and precautions and clearly communicated with your employee, they should know that the ball is in their court. No one can change virtually overnight, so give them time to try and incorporate your advice or guidance into their everyday life. It might be the case that you need to pay a bit more attention to them for a while, However, don’t be overbearing and give them time to adapt on their own terms.

Be patient, and they might just surprise you. Also, as we mentioned before, commend the member of your staff if you see them making progress and gently reprimand them if they’re straying once again.

How do you suspend a difficult employee?

Suspending (or potentially firing) an employee is never the solution any manager hopes for. It’s a difficult and heated process that can quickly become ugly. However, if there is no improvement, it might become necessary to initiate these proceedings.

Generally, there needs to be gross misconduct in order to suspend an employee. However, if their behavior is bad enough, it could lead to a complete deterioration in your relationship with them or their relationship with the rest of the staff. This too can be grounds for suspension.

Man walking with leather briefcase

Here, you’ll need to follow your company guidelines to the letter. You can find more information on how to do this and what considerations to make when suspending an employee at Personnel Today.

Don’t let a difficult employee sour your mobile home park

An unreasonably difficult employee can make working, living, and running a mobile home park much more uncomfortable than it needs to be. If someone on your staff shows signs of repeat behavior or starts generating complaints, it’s something that should be investigated in good time to avoid everyone being affected by it.

However, difficult employees can be only one source of stress that you or your management team need to deal with on a daily basis. Finding your own style of mobile home park management is also something that can help you deal with these kinds of issues. We hope that these tips on how to deal with a difficult employee help you make your park a better place to live and work.

About Dan Leighton

Dan Leighton has been working in the mobile home industry for over a decade. His focus has been on sales and customer relations - making sure each person in the transaction is comfortable and fully transparent. He has a wife and one son. Dan continues to look for innovative ways to help both sellers and parks get the most bang for their buck.

Written by Dan Leighton

Dan Leighton has been working in the mobile home industry for over a decade. His focus has been on sales and customer relations - making sure each person in the transaction is comfortable and fully transparent. He has a wife and one son. Dan continues to look for innovative ways to help both sellers and parks get the most bang for their buck.

December 21, 2018