Article: How should HR deal with difficult employees?

Employee Relations

How should HR deal with difficult employees?

The HR Head at SMAAASH emphasised how addressing workplace conflicts is the most critical aspect of fostering a productive and positive working environment.
How should HR deal with difficult employees?

Dealing with difficult employees is a challenging yet essential aspect of human resources management. When faced with such situations, HR should approach them with empathy, patience, and a commitment to finding constructive solutions. 

There are several aspects to consider. First and foremost, HR should strive to understand the root cause of the employee's behaviour. Difficulties may arise from various sources, such as personal issues, conflicts with colleagues, or dissatisfaction with job roles. 

By engaging in open and honest conversations with the employee, HR can gain valuable insights into the underlying issues and work towards addressing them effectively. 

Additionally, it's essential for HR to establish clear and consistent policies and procedures for addressing behavioural issues in the workplace. This ensures that all employees understand what is expected of them and the consequences of violating company policies. 

In an exclusive interview with Mr Ankit Dangi, HR Head at SMAAASH, we deliberated on how by enforcing certain policies fairly and consistently, HR can maintain a sense of fairness and accountability in the workplace. 

Excerpts from the interview: 

How do you handle conflicts that arise in the workplace? What is the key to good conflict resolution? 

As an HR Head, addressing conflicts in the workplace is the most crucial part in fostering a productive and positive working environment. With effective communication, active listening, and a fair and impartial approach, most situations can be diffused. Handling a situation with care and a genuine desire to help can be the most effective part in conflict resolution. 

The first step in handling conflicts is to be an attentive listener. More than just problem-solving skills; it requires emotional intelligence. Here, we must emphasise that understanding the nuances of the situation is crucial. Intellectual understanding takes a backseat to emotional intelligence, since conflicts have a deeper root than just a surface level issue. Soft skills play a pivotal role in navigating conflicts, recognizing that there needs to be understanding among all involved parties, following which a thoughtful response can be given. 

Establishing clear expectations through communication. How do you use communication to establish boundaries? 

Preventing issues begins with setting clear expectations from the outset. Consistent communication is the key to ensuring everyone is on the same page. Writing down all communication over email can be helpful to avoid assumptions. Clear communication plays a part in all the factors in this list, and is crucial when it comes to a harmonious work environment when dealing with strong personalities. 

Communication channels must be set up from the outset, they need to be able to convey expectations, policies, and guidelines regarding rules, regulations, and behaviour in the workplace. 

Regular team meetings, one-on-one discussions, and regular communication are all tools to establish boundaries and set expectations in the workplace. Without these tools, employees may not be able to feel comfortable to voice their needs and concerns while being respectful of others’ boundaries and expectations. 

With burnout and mental health taking a toll on many professionals, how does one manage expectations to balance well-being and performance? 

When talking about a sensitive topic like mental health challenges, empathy takes centre stage. Striking a balance between an employee’s well-being and performance requires understanding the connection between their mental health and behaviour. An empathetic, non-aggressive approach is vital to foster a supportive workplace culture.

This also involves setting up guidelines that balance wellbeing and professional performance. As an HR head, I advocate for a holistic, well-rounded set of guidelines to approach employee management. Regular check-ins and feedback sessions, along with providing resources and support for stress management are all key to being able to help regulate an employee’s mental health. 

How do team dynamics play a part in conflict resolutions? 

When dealing with challenging employees, managing team dynamics becomes an art. Team dynamic can either exacerbate or mitigate the situation. It is necessary to acknowledge their contributions to prevent disruptions, while ensuring that their concerns are validly addressed. Ensuring that the team values every member, while maintaining overall morale and productivity is necessary to strike a balance. Understanding and recognising when an employee is wrong as opposed to just frustrated with unaddressed questions by the organisation is crucial to good management within a team. 

There could also be underlying issues within a team such as communication breakdowns, power struggles, or personality clashes. With a culture of collaboration, trust, and mutual respect, team dynamics may be able to aid in conflict resolutions and strengthen relations among team members. 

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What is the key approach to diffusing tense situations with difficult employees? 

It is important to engage challenging employees in finding their own solutions to their issues. It requires a multi-faceted approach to ensure their active participation in decision making processes, combining emotional engagement with factual clarity. This strategy not only leads to effective solutions but also considers the emotional aspects that might be driving the challenges presented by these employees. 

As HR professionals, it is important to stay calm, empathetic, and focussed when diffusing tense situations. De-escalation techniques are also imperative when dealing with difficult employees. Active listening, acknowledging emotions, and reframing the situation are all ways to aid an HR professional in tense situations. However, when an employee does get particularly disruptive or potentially harmful, disciplinary action might be taken apropos to the wrong-doing. However, the goal is to always set a positive work environment where employees can thrive and help support each other.  

Thus, we have seen that the essence of dealing with challenging employees lies in understanding that their behaviour is often a manifestation of underlying concerns. By emphasising emotional intelligence, clear communication, empathy, and strategic management, organisations can transform conflict into opportunities for growth. The goal is not to label employees as difficult but to foster a collaborative work environment where every individual feels heard, valued, and contributes to the collective success of the team. 

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Topics: Employee Relations, #Culture, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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