Handling Bad Apples: How to Deal With Annoying Employees

At the workplace, you will surely encounter different kinds of people. Some of them will be pleasant, while others will be, well, not-so pleasant. As much as you would want to avoid engaging with the latter types of people, that isn’t an option if you’re the manager or team leader. When you’re in charge, you have to engage with all the employees; what’s more, you have to make sure your team or employees get along to the degree that they produce results.

However, that one bad apple in your workplace can rile up the rest of your team, make the workplace miserable, and sometimes, can even create a hostile work environment. This could very possibly result in conflict and poor performance.

As a manager, how do you respond to such behaviour, and how do you lessen the damage caused?

Assessing the Behaviour

According to the Harvard Business Review, there’s a difference between an annoying employee and a toxic one. Toxic employees not only cause harm, but they also extend their behaviour to others. For example, an employee who gossips incessantly may cause others in the workplace to gossip as well.

Annoying employees have bothersome habits like talking loudly on the phone or having bad hygiene. Inconsiderate behaviour doesn’t necessarily go against company policies, and you can’t fire an annoying employee unless a line has been crossed.

Finding the Root Cause

When dealing with employees with annoying behaviour, the first step is to find the root cause of the problem. The person might be unhappy with their work or might be struggling with their personal life. Their habits may be shaped by culture and experiences that other team members don’t share. Meet with the employee and ask how they are doing in terms of work, personal life and career development.

Alternatively, there might be environmental factors that magnify the problem. For example, an employee may not mean to slam the door every time he or she goes in and out of the office, the door might just be unnecessarily heavy; remedy the problem by installing overhead concealed door closers.

Getting the Message Across

Employees in a meeting

In many cases, annoying employees are not aware of the effect they have on others. This is why it’s essential to give them feedback. Mention the behaviour and why it’s making others uncomfortable, so they understand the problem and have the chance to change. Also discuss what kind of behaviour you want to see from them instead and help them create an improvement plan.

If the message isn’t getting across, explain the consequences. Figure out what they care about most at work – for example, the privilege of working from home, or a potential promotion – and mention that those are at stake. For many people, the possibility of losing something at work or suffering consequences is enough motivation for them to change their behaviour.

In more extreme cases, the person may not respond to the abovementioned tactics. Recognise that you can’t fix the problem and explore more serious consequences, such as isolating the employee or considering termination.

A brewing dissatisfaction due to an annoying employee doesn’t bode well for the workplace, in the long run. When employees start rambling about a colleague who is getting on their nerves, make them aware of the problem and help them find a solution right away.

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