How to manage difficult employees – managing a disrespectful employee

How to manage difficult employees – managing a disrespectful employee

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Hi! I am Grace Judson, and I am here as
a self-proclaimed proud leadership geek on a mission to help new
managers and supervisors succeed and become the leaders they want to be. Yay! And a big management challenge is what do you do about an employee who’s
disrespectful. Maybe they’re resentful that you got the promotion they were hoping
for. Maybe they don’t agree with your decisions or your management style. Or
maybe they’re just generally cranky! Stick with me, because I will cover some
ideas and approaches to the problem here in this video. But first, for the most
relevant useful advice for new managers and supervisors who really do want to
become good leaders – because management is not just about managing tasks, it is
about leading people. So subscribe and hit the little notifications bell so you
get informed every time I publish a new video, which is pretty much every week.
Every Wednesday in fact. Okay, so, you’ve got someone on your team who’s been
undercutting you in some way. Maybe arguing with you, maybe going behind your back to talk with your boss about things that are going on maybe gossiping about you
with other members of your team. Well, by the end of this video you will have some
ways to nip this in the bud and get things back on track. And having been in
management and leadership for over 16 years before I started my manager and
supervisor training and coaching business in 2005 – whoa, that’s getting longer
longer ago – funny how that happens! Anyway, I have helped a lot of my clients
understand how to manage, supervise, and lead even when they are faced with
employees who seem to be fighting them at every step of the way. So let’s start by setting
the stage just a little bit more, okay? Because sometimes with someone like this,
who seems to be fighting you every step of the way, you might even get to a point
where you think you’re imagining things, or maybe that it’s “not as bad as it seems”! The resentful employee can be very
passive-aggressive. They can deliberately “misunderstand” what you’ve asked them to do,
they can go over your head to talk with your boss not making it even really that obvious – you know,
“hey we just passed each other in the hall.” Maybe they’re even trash-talking
you with your team-mates. If you’ve ever heard the term “gaslighting” –
it’s when someone says or does things that make you feel like you’re losing
your mind, like *you’re* the one who’s wrong, not them.”
That is a classic technique of an employee who is passively aggressively
– passive aggressively? – passive aggressively resentful and disrespectful.
So have you had to deal with someone like that? Maybe you even ended up
thinking you really were the one who was wrong, and boy can that ever undermine your confidence.
What’s the worst experience you’ve had, or maybe witnessed, with a
disrespectful employee. I know I’ve had some trials and tribulations along
those lines myself. So okay, whether it’s that kind of subtle passive-aggressive
sort of disrespectful behavior, or it’s more overt in directly talking back, what do you do? First priority: document what’s happening. Write it down. This does two things:
first, if it’s the passive-aggressive behavior that can make you
doubt your own sanity, when you write it down, you stop doubting. It becomes clear that this really is happening it’s right there in black and white on the page.
Second: documenting the behavior is an essential first step before you take any
kind of action. If you don’t have documentation, which should include the
date and time, what happened, and the names of anyone who was there as a
witness – if you don’t have that, you’ll have a hard time having a discussion with
the employee about their behavior, and, if you end up having to go to your Human
Resources department with the problem, they will need your documentation to help
you take the necessary next steps. If this person is going over your head and
talking to your boss, your boss should be referring them back to you to handle
whatever it is. If they’re not – if your boss isn’t doing, this then I suggest
having a conversation with your boss to ask that any questions
or requests that this employee is making come back to you instead of going around
you. Talking with the employee about their behavior is one of those “it
depends” kinds of things. If they’re passive-aggressive and gaslighting, then
confronting them directly could very well end in frustration. Unless you have
SUPER clear and detailed documentation they can look innocent, claim they have
no idea what you’re talking about, and insist that you’ve misunderstood their
intentions. On the other hand, if they are openly defiant – and, again, you have that
documentation of times and situations, then having a closed-door conversation
with them is your next step. In this – and I will come back to the
passive-aggressive problem in a minute – in this case, where they’re openly and
obviously talking back or disobeying, and so on, you’ll need to be very clear and
very unemotional about the situation. This is what happened, this is
unacceptable, you expect it to stop immediately. You don’t need to discuss
how it makes you feel. That is not relevant. There’s some instruction out
there, and there’s some opinion out there, practices out there, about saying, “Well, I
feel like… ” That is not relevant as a manager. It really doesn’t matter how you
feel about what your employees are doing. What matters is whether or not they’re
doing the right things in the ways that you need them to do. Depending on the
situation, you can tell them that if they disagree with you about something, or
have a problem of some sort, they can come to you privately to discuss it. But
the openly defiant behavior has to stop, and if it continues after this
conversation, you will probably need to go to your HR people and to your boss to
enlist their help in resolving the situation. Okay, going back to the passive-aggressive employee – which is probably one of the most challenging situations
you’re going to face as a manager or supervisor. I mentioned that you probably
won’t have a lot of luck confronting them directly, because their whole game
is all about “plausible deniability” – being able to look innocent and deny
all knowledge of what you’re accusing them of doing. So, what do you do? Here is an
actually quite fun and very effective technique that I learned from the master
negotiator Christopher Voss. He used to be the – wait for it! – Lead International
Hostage Negotiator for the FBI. So as you might imagine, he’s got some street cred
on this question of negotiating and dealing with people who are hostile and
just argumentative. He is now the head of his own negotiation consultancy and
training company, and he is the author of this book, which I highly recommend, and I
will include a link to the book on Amazon in the video description below.
When you go down to look at the video description, you’ll probably have to
click on the little “see more” link in order to see all the links I’m going to reference
here. Voss talks about something called the No-Oriented question. And the trick
here is this employee is in NO mode. They’re not going to want to say “yes” to
anything that you ask them or want them to do. So you give them the opportunity
to say what they want to say – NO! – but in answer to a question that actually
serves your purpose when they do say no. That is probably about as clear as mud,
so let me give you some examples. Here’s one: Is it unreasonable of me to expect
you to follow through on what I’ve asked you to do? Am I crazy to think you should come to me first,
before going over my head to talk to my boss? Is it totally outrageous for me to expect you to double-check with me before you tell the team what to do? And so on, right? You get the idea. If they say yes, they’re agreeing that
you’re unreasonable, crazy, and outrageous, and no matter how
disrespectful they might be, it’s unlikely that they’re gonna go that far. But in
saying no, they’re actually agreeing with you that they should do these things
that you’re asking them about. And then you can follow up by saying,
Okay, then we agree that going forward you will … and you fill in the blank with whatever it is
you just sneakily got them to agree with. Voss’s book goes into a lot more detail
on this ,and a bunch of other really fascinating and easy-to-use tools for
negotiation, conflict management, and just general conversation. And I highly recommend it, as I said. One more thing I want to say here: When you have an employee who’s
being disrespectful, it is important for you to take a step back before you do
anything else, even any of the things that I have outlined here. Is there
something you are doing that is maybe not in your best interests as a manager
or supervisor and a leader. If they don’t like your management style, or they
disagree with you, yes, they should come to you directly instead of being
disrespectful. But it is possible that they don’t feel safe doing that. So
double-check your behavior, because it could be that for instance, you’re
micromanaging unnecessarily, or at least they feel that way, or maybe showing some
disrespect yourself. Reality check what you’re doing and, if necessary, make
adjustments. Management is not about “they should just do what you tell them to do.”
Management is about leading people and motivating them to do what they need to
do in a way that helps them grow and develop and feel respected themselves.
Being a good, effective manager and leader also means cultivating some
self-awareness so that you can lead in a way that works for everyone – for you, for
your employer, and for your employees. Okay. With that said, if you want more on
this type of employee, including some examples, some additional examples of
those no-oriented questions, check out the ebook The Five Most Challenging
Employees – and how to manage them. The link is down there in the video
description. Like I said a minute ago you may need to click the – I think it says
“see more” in order to pop the whole description open and find the links.
And as always, if you like this video, please let me know. You can like it below.
You can subscribe- that would be great! And you can share it with your
colleagues, and it will be great if you have an aha moment in this, or an insight
that you would like to share, or a question you’d like to ask, post that in
the comments and I will reply. Take care!

One comment

  1. Dealing with a disrespectful employee is SO challenging! I remember how tense and nervous I was as a new manager when I had an employee who was constantly pushing back on my decisions and thought he knew better. How about you? What's been your experience, and what tips do you have for us in how to manage this situation?

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