Dealing with Difficult Employees

Keith Wilmot

16 April 2015

As a leader you will inevitably be challenged and have to deal with difficult employees. In fact, anytime there are more than two individuals in an organization there will be conflict!! How a leader ultimately handles conflict resolution is the critical question for dealing with difficult employees.

The extent of these issues vary from mild to severe, however, difficult team members can have a negative impact on retention, engagement, and productivity in your organization. We reviewed recent data that suggests over 50% of the U.S. workforce is either disengaged or actively disengaged with their work. I’d venture to guess there are some very difficult people in that mix!

At Leadercast, our desire is to provide leaders with a framework to become a leader worth following. This framework is foundationally based on a set of core values, including Integrity, People First, Authenticity, Excellence, and Discipline – as well as behavioral competencies, including Simplicity, Bravery, Creativity, Beyond You, Culture, and Insight.



We believe that leaders who are worth following 
Think, Lead, and Behave Differently.



Far too often we revert to just tactics to solve for leadership challenges, rather than relying on our core values and the critical behaviors that can drive lasting, positive change.

Take for instance this real scenario from one of my past leadership challenges. I was leading a marketing team with an individual who consistently shot down new ideas and suffered from what I’d call doomsday negativity. He basically wanted no change in the organization and consistently used language like, “this is how we do it here, or this idea will never be approved by our board”. As a leader, my first priority is staying true to my core value of People First and Excellence.



These core values assume the best in people first, 
value their contributions, and demand excellence 
in everything we do.



These values, then combined with behaviors, lead to solid leadership action. The behavior most critical in this situation was a combination of Simplicity and Creativity. This team member had a visceral reaction to anything complex… the more simplistic the idea … the better he responded. I also began to understand how the behavior of creativity, especially lateral thinking – looking at things from a different lens, often led to more positive conservations and ultimately less conflict.


My challenge to our Leadercast tribe is to not quickly revert to tactics to solve leadership issues with difficult employees. What I mean by tactics are things like “listen, give clear feedback, document, etc” - These can be effective, but will not get at the heart of the conflict with an employee.

By focusing on core values and behaviors, you will win the hearts of your employees.

Now, it’s your turn:

What core values and behaviors do you depend as you lead your team?

Keith Wilmot

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