Dr. Bob Wright | November 11, 2014

Ask Bob: How Do I Deal With a Difficult Employee?

Michael: “I want to motivate my staff to take on more responsibility. I’m trying to build a team culture by encouraging my team to help each other, but I have a difficult employee who won’t follow the procedures that we have set in place. How can I motivate her to follow our processes without being obnoxious?”

Bob: This behavior is called passive aggression. Your authority is being questioned.

I lead people by managing by exception. I’ll give you a job and if I don’t like how you do it, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, you should assume you’re doing well. The price I pay for leading this way is that mistakes are often made because I didn’t actively oversee my staff.

I have to tell my staff that they need to do what I ask them in order for both of us to be successful. I need to be happy in order for them to be happy. It sounds like you’re not willing to go to that place. You’re reluctant to establish your dominance with this staff member.

You don’t need to brag to do this. Bragging is a way to affirm yourself by showing your employees that you know what you’re doing. On the contrary, establishing your dominance with a difficult employee is saying “I don’t give a darn if you agree with me. I’m the boss and you need to do this because I’m asking you.”

This is an issue of power and authority. Your response to this team member should be, “Once you’ve done what I asked you to do, then I will consider your suggestions to improve the process. Until then, I expect you to follow my process.”

This situation goes back to our families, when kids play two parents off against each other. When parents don’t establish their authority, it creates a confused situation without anyone really knowing who the boss is – and it’s happening with you and your difficult employee.

You need to exercise your power and control in a straight, clean way to establish your authority with your staff, especially with a difficult employe. Then, you can motivate them to take on more responsibilities around the office because you’ve asserted your dominance.

Image courtesy Flickr user smemon



Dr. Bob Wright
Dr. Bob Wright

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University. 

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