Breaking Barriers: Best Ways to Communicate with Difficult Employees

It is inevitable in your role as a manager that you will have to deal with difficult employees at some point in your career. Although it can be easy to surrender yourself to these kinds of employees, it is worth your while to learn how to communicate with them effectively. After all, maintaining an effective work environment is conducive to employee performance. Your ability to communicate with all kinds of employees and varying personalities will help you to lead a successful team. Here are a few strategies for communicating with those employees who aren’t so easy to deal with.


The first thing most of us do when an employee is being difficult is to stop listening. When we are frustrated, irritated and we have already formed an opinion about the employee, we just tune them out and focus our attention on other things. That said, great managers understand the importance of being very attentive when an employee is being difficult. They know that the only way to truly solve the problem is to understand it. It can be well worth your while to listen attentively so you can see things from the employee’s point of view.


Disarm the Anger

We have all worked with that employee who deals with conflict by accusing, attacking, or criticizing others. These types of employees are quick to get angry and they are ready to defend themselves the moment you open your mouth. You have to be careful in how you communicate with a defensive employee because the conversation can get heated very quickly. The best way to talk to this kind of employee is to start by acknowledging their position and then calmly and politely tell them you would like them to consider another possibility. Be sure to empathize with this person and let them you know you care about their feelings.


Give Clear Feedback

Many managers will spend months complaining about poor employees but they never actually provide the employee with feedback about what they should be doing differently. There is no doubt that giving feedback can be one of the most uncomfortable parts of the job, but great managers learn how to do it effectively and respectfully. Make sure you have documentation if necessary and always be consistent with your standards. You also have to remember to offer solutions for everything you find that the employee is doing wrong. Your feedback should be clear and concise and should be intended to help the employee and not embarrass them.


Acknowledge and Encourage

For some employees, hearing a few positive comments is enough to stroke their ego and keep them happy. For those defensive employees, they need to know they are doing something right for a change. Sometimes the best way to communicate with difficult employees is to start by praising them. When people feel valued, they are more likely to back down and feel less combative. Similarly, it is important to encourage employees by offering solutions and explaining why these solutions can be beneficial. Flattery and encouragement can go a long way when it comes to communicating with a challenging employee.