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How to… manage challenging employees

How to… manage challenging employees

Take the time to discover what is demotivating your employees and you could be rewarded with renewed commitment, says Philip Cripps

It is often said that high staff turnover is a fact of life in hospitality. However, my experience has been that managers who make that claim are often the cause of the problem.

Employees are not robots –they don’t always do what we want them to do. They can be argumentative, abrupt, disinterested, sullen and challenging. That’s why it is so important to know how to manage challenges and turn them into opportunities for success.

The management of people has a lot in common with the construction industry. It’s far easier to knock a building down than to construct one that will be appreciated and admired. It’s the same with employees. Destroy them verbally and they may never recover. Take the time to understand their vantage point and work with them to remove their causes of demotivation and you could have an individual who will stay with you for years.

While there isn’t a formula to follow to guarantee success, there are proven guidelines to follow, as explained below.

1 Employees who react emotionally to situations never respond positively to logical explanations for why they should change. Answering emotional reactions with logical responses is like trying to mix oil and water – it will not work. Emotions have to 
be explored and understood.

2 Discussions with challenging employees have to be planned. Always produce 
a list of the questions you need to ask
to identify what has triggered your team member’s reactions.

3 Your fact-finding questions to an employee always need to be structured by using the prefixes of what, who, 
how, where and when.

4 Eliminate ‘why’ from your vocabulary. ‘Why’ has been described as the most provocative word in the English language because it invariably stimulates a defensive reaction from the person who receives the ‘why?’ question.

5 You need to appear to be calm when 
you are discussing an employee’s 
behaviour and attitudes. If you appear
to be nervous, hesitant or uncertain, your employee could seek to take over the discussion and reinforce their views.

6 When an employee is difficult, and their attitude and behaviour is affecting their performance and that of their colleagues’, ask the employee to describe their frustrations, concerns and other factors that are causing them to be demotivated.

7 Invite your employee to propose their own action plan. Let them determine what will change their attitudes and behaviour.

8 Give your team member time to consider the actions they could or should take.
It’s all too easy to try to rush to a solution or to impose your own ideas.

9 Agree a timetable for those actions that are to be taken.

10 Work with your employee to deliver the changes you both desire. Give practical and emotional support.

Philip Cripps is managing director of Thameside International

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