How to Manage Employees With Difficult Personalities

5 min read
May 19, 2016

How_to_Manage_Employees_With_Difficult_Personalities_1.jpgPeople no longer quit their bosses; they quite their peers, according to our research. And there’s a lot that goes into being a great employee. Generally, we take it for granted that a good employee is someone who excels in their position. However, sometimes the best performers don’t have a great attitude, and other times those with the best attitude aren’t all that great at their job.

To make matters even more complex, sometimes an otherwise awesome worker has a personality quirk that drives the people around them insane. We’ve all been around at least one Negative Nancy or Loud-Mouth Larry (and if this isn’t a recognized colloquialism, it should be), so it’s no surprise that these behaviors can make office life nearly insufferable.

Demeanor, work ethic, and results are all important aspects when it comes to identifying rock-star employees, and yet many people are missing at least one of these elements in their roles. As managers, helping your employees develop in the areas they’re lacking can have a huge impact on the success of your department, as you work to raise morale, foster team unity, and improve efficiency all around.

Lets take a look at some of the most common traits that can turn great workers into walking ulcers, and how best to manage them.


What’s the Problem?

Identifying which behavioral issue your employee demonstrates is the first step in figuring out a solution for them. Are they know-it-alls that undermine leadership? Do they bring others down with their jaded view of the world and workplace? Maybe they just have a penchant for turning things in at the last second and compromise trust among their teammates. Whatever the issue is, the most important thing to do is to approach the situation with the understanding and care that are the hallmarks of a good manager.


The Show-Offs

These people are extremely confident in their abilities. They love nothing more than to correct others or give advice, even when it’s unsolicited, and in team meetings, they’ll often be the first to answer questions or offer up solutions for the group. Unfortunately, despite the enthusiasm, they can cause rifts in the workplace by stepping on others toes or silencing great ideas with their loud personalities.

In some cases, these employees are truly the best at what they do, and their behavior is a reflection of that. In other instances, they’re simply overconfident in their skill set and want to be viewed as experts in their role. Evaluating where they lie on this scale is necessary when it comes to seeking a solution in order to retain the former and train the latter.


The Experienced Show-Offs

Highly skilled workers with a proven track record for getting results may very well feel underemployed in their current role and seek fulfillment by passing on their knowledge to others. Check out these findings from the MRI Network and EdAssist:

  • 86% of recruiters interacted with individuals who were underemployed or undercompensated in their current positions
  • 53% of employees would consider staying at their job if they felt it provided adequate development opportunities

These numbers illustrate both the potential problem and solution behind “show-off” employees.

If they’re having to take their development into their own hands, it’s entirely possible that you haven’t set them on a path for finding personal success in the workplace. The fact that these are some of your best employees means that it’s important for you sit them down and discuss their future if you don’t want to lose them to another company.

While you’re at it, go ahead and explain that while you love how engaged they are with their role, there are better ways of showing it than calling out answers in team meetings and acting as the personal tutors of the department. Explain that you recognize their talents in their role but that you’d like to see how the rest of the team develops, and focus on the moves you’re taking to transition them out of their current position.


The Showing-Off-Too-Soons

On the opposite side of the spectrum are the employees who are simply filled with a little too much hubris. Though their hearts may be in the right place, their loud personalities may be grating on their fellow workers, and worst of all, they won’t have the required experience to back it up.

For these individuals, it’s important not to shame them for their enthusiasm. After all, the more engaged your employees are, the better. Instead, have a one-on-one with them and let them know that you love where they’re coming from, but that it’s important for the department to operate as a unit, and that their gregarious personalities may intimidate others who are looking to contribute to team discussions.

It is also entirely possible that, like their highly skilled counterparts, these individuals are seeking advancement in their roles. While they may not be ready for that step yet, it’s a good idea to ask them what they’d like to be working towards so that you can give them new areas to focus on —while shifting them away from their self-appointed role as the team spokesman.


The World-Weary Deskmates

Sometimes it’s not too much enthusiasm you need to worry about from your employees, but the exact opposite. No matter where you work, you’re bound to run into an employee or coworker who’s just plain had it.

These individuals tend to be more experienced, hence their gruff demeanors that reek of years of exasperation. In fact, this study from Gallup shows that 21% of employees who have been with a company for 10 years or more are disengaged — the highest of any tenured group. However, the study also revealed that employees who have been with the company for 10 years or more and are engaged at work happen to be the best performers in their roles.

What these numbers suggest is that while many of these Jaded Jacks might be bringing office morale down with their skeptical comments and subpar engagement, they also represent a vast pool of potential when it comes to maximizing performance. Like the show-offs, it’s necessary that you take the time to sit down with them and understand their goals. Find out how you can help them reach what they want to work towards, even if their ultimate plans don’t involve your company. Making the effort to give them opportunities to explore areas of interest within the workplace is a surefire way to increase engagement among them.

At the same time, respectfully explain how their behavior is being interpreted by those around them, and let them know it’s important that they not let what’s upsetting them characterize their involvement in the workplace. Instead, extend an invitation to visit you in your office whenever something’s bugging them, with the intention to work it out there. This study by Gallup shows that 53% of employees who feel they can approach their managers are engaged in the workplace. Sometimes it’s the most experienced workers who need the most positive affirmation from their managers. Let them know they’re appreciated.

Essentially, when it comes to difficult personalities in the workplace, the name of the game is communication. Take the time to understand where these behaviors are springing from and develop solutions around them. Doing so will not only earn you the respect of your workers, but it will also help you foster a positive work environment where everyone can feel comfortable.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. 





Describe your image

Get Email Notifications