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How to manage difficult employees

How to manage difficult employees

Problem staff, we’ve all experienced them, tried to manage them, or been them. So, how do you change them?

They’re a stable in every industry, but let’s explore how they impact one of the most common battle fields of all. Education.

More than 40% of my clients are teachers at their wits end, ready to pull the plug and change careers. They often become emotional, shedding tears as they share how they’re treated by students and unsupported by their leaders. They tell me that staff are leaving in droves, because of certain individuals on staff who would be more at home in a sandpit than in a management position.

It’s an either they go, or I go scenario.

But what if there’s a third scenario?

One that gets to the root of the real issue, without anyone being reprimanded?

Well, there is, and it’ll save you all that outdated performance management.

I call it the “human scenario”.

Contrary to popular belief, no one gets up each morning and says “yay, I think I’ll be an arsehole today!” But they DO behave like arseholes, none the less.

Or do they?

Could it be that they’re favouring that staff member, because that staff member is doing their work for them, or because they’re too scary to take on? Either way, it’s just easier to keep them on side.

Could it be that they call in sick when important meetings are happening, because they think they’ll be outranked and exposed as inadequate?

Could it be that they sabotage other staff, because they don’t have the ability to match them?

Could it be that they are really unpleasant, manipulative and unprofessional … because the idea of asking for help is an excruciating reminder of their failure? Besides, if they ask YOU for help, then YOU have the control, and well … they’re not going there. That’s weakness!

But, what do you do about it?

It’s actually a lot simpler than you realise.

You stop trying to change the behaviour, and start realising what the behaviour is telling you.

Or, let me put it another way.

I want you to, as of lunch time tomorrow, start speaking Swahili as your only language. Chuck English in the bin, change your language and we’ll be sweet. All our problems will be solved.

Got it?


But, what if you don’t know how to speak Swahili?

You can’t do it.

Yet, we’re expecting our staff to be different, even though, who they are, is all they know

So you transfer them to another department, and surprise surprise … they’re STILL not speaking Swahili. But, you continue to have exhausted, frustrated staff leaving in droves (and you’re still clenching your sphincter in anticipation of another visit from “The Department”).

Sound familiar?

Let me translate for you, what’s really going on.

The HOLA that’s micromanaging, boasting about their credentials, favouring some staff over others, and not following protocol is being run by beliefs like:

⁃ No one respects me

⁃ People don’t give a shit

⁃ Control is power

⁃ Avoidance keeps me safe

⁃ Asking for help means I’ve failed

⁃ Asking for help makes me weak

⁃ I don’t know what to do

⁃ I don’t know what to say

⁃ I’m going to look stupid

…. and probably many more like these.

Hard to believe eh? Because when they tell us how important they were at their last school, or about the awards and credentials that hang on their wall, we think they’re full of themselves. Up themselves. Self-important.

But, the opposite is true.

People who are confident in their abilities … don’t have to convince you of them.

The teacher that’s always in tears, feeling powerless, unsupported, unheard and targeted is being run by beliefs like:

⁃ I’m not important

⁃ No one gives a shit

⁃ Anger gets me heard

⁃ No one values me

⁃ I’m invisible

⁃ I have to keep the peace

⁃ I can’t rock the boat

⁃ Silence keeps me safe

⁃ Life is hard

… and many more like these.

But, despite the support you offer, they continue to feel stressed, have limited coping mechanisms and continually need other people to change, in order to feel happier – which is why, when you solve one problem for them, another one soon materialises.

But, there is some good news.

None of these behaviours are deliberate.

These difficult employees and leaders are not choosing to behave this way.

None of these people are aware that they’re being run by these beliefs.

It’s. All. They. Know.

Which is why they can’t speak Swahili.

They don’t know what they don’t know.

Can you see what’s happening here?

The overbearing, unprofessional, decidedly unpleasant people on your staff are actually fuelled by raging self-doubt and fear of failure. Interestingly, so are the ones that are on the brink of breaking.

These people are incredibly insecure and their confidence is running on fumes.

So, when we direct any of these people into performance management, where we point out concerns and how they need to lift their game, all we’re doing is adding fuel to the soul-destroying beliefs that are creating the problem in the first place (even though we’re coming from a place of compassion).

We’re making the problem bigger.

Which is why we need to throw these outdated performance management processes in the shredder and start seeing what’s REALLY going on. It’s why we need to stop telling staff to be better, and start giving them the desire to want to be better.

It’s by helping them discover what’s running them, instead of just trying to hijack their GPS.

Not as a punishment, but as an acknowledgment of their phenomenal potential.

What if we simply helped people to release the beliefs that are creating the behaviour?

They’d be collaborative, supportive, open to growth, and all round cheerleaders for your students, your teachers and themselves.

And your school will have a backload of staff eager to be considered for teaching positions, and a waiting list of families keen to secure a place for their kids.

This is the kind of school you want to be a part of.

Reach out if you’d like to have a conversation about how together, we could make it a reality.

Affordable, one2one coaching that makes work and life, so much easier.
Leanne Shaw
Senior Coach/Trainer
Leanne Shaw

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