Dealing with problem staff

17 January 2008
Dealing with problem staff

Managers must address the issue of difficult staff before they drag the whole team down, warns Andrew McKenzie, managing director at the Vineyard at Stockcross and chairman of the Master Innholders, in a new fortnightly column from the hotel managers' organisation

A new year and a new start. Managers have no shortage of issues to get their teeth into and regularly use this time of year to plan change. Usually these involve lofty and ambitious goals, but sometimes it's the little, gnawing issues that should be addressed first.

How many of you have an employee who doesn't march to the same beat as the rest of your team? Someone who upsets the harmony by following their own agenda regardless of the company's aims and objectives? In short, a pain in the neck - but in many ways a talented one.

Have you ever put off that difficult conversation? Often the person brings a lot to the party and we overlook the shortcoming. If it was a performance or capability issue we would grab the bull by the horns, but "attitude" is harder to define.

We seldom see how much harm toxic individuals can cause until they're gone. Relief courses through the team, productivity increases and issues which were previously escalated become minor again. But offenders don't have to be removed from the equation, merely their unreasonable behaviour.

Sometimes external help will be required to coach and counsel an employee towards a different way of behaving.

Not all difficult individuals are bullies, but my bet is that, if someone is problematic to their manager, they are also going to be pretty awful to people lower down the organisation chart. It's a manager's duty to ensure that the workplace is safe and harassment-free. Our ever more litigious world will soon make us wake up to this if we don't do something about it first.

General Managers Conference

At the General Managers Conference at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower on 21 and 22 January, adventurer and leadership consultant Manley Hopkinson will address delegates and offer advice on confronting difficult staffing issues. To book your place, call Bob Bacon on 020 7269 9693 or e-mail

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