top of page
a blog by Chris Barrow

Mastering Dental Leadership: Strategies for Effectively Managing Difficult Employees - a Free Guide

A guest post by Mark Topley.

Dealing with difficult employees is a common challenge that a lot of managers and leaders face in their roles. Understanding why people are difficult, learning how to navigate tough conversations, resetting expectations and boundaries, and owning your leadership identity are essential parts of effectively managing these situations.

In my Great Boss Academy member calls, I would estimate that at least 75% of the topics each month relate to difficult people in the team. So if you’re currently struggling with this - you’re not alone!

Why People Are Difficult:

Difficult behaviour in the workplace can stem from various factors, including personal issues, lack of clarity or direction, mismatched expectations, or even dissatisfaction with their role or the practice. It's essential for you to recognise that difficult behaviour is often a symptom of an underlying issue rather than a personal attack. By approaching the situation with empathy and seeking to understand the root cause (first), there’s a good chance you can better address and resolve the issue.

How to Have a Difficult Conversation:

Having a difficult conversation with an employee can be daunting, but it's essential for addressing problematic behaviour and finding solutions. Start by setting aside a private, distraction-free time to speak with the employee. Approach the conversation with empathy, active listening, and a focus on constructive feedback rather than criticism. Use "I" statements to express your observations and feelings, and encourage the employee to share their perspective.

I’ve written a specific free guide on this - the Great Boss Guide to Managing Difficult People - which can provide additional strategies and frameworks for conducting difficult conversations effectively.

Resetting Expectations and Boundaries:

Clear expectations and boundaries are essential for building a positive work environment and managing difficult behaviour. If an employee's performance or conduct does not meet expectations, it's crucial to address the issue early and clearly outline the desired changes. Too often we shy away from this and leave it too late. We catch the person off guard and an explosion ensues.

Much better to set specific goals and milestones for improvement, and provide support and resources as needed. It’s also crucial to reinforce boundaries around acceptable behaviour and the consequences for violating them. And then ‘pick small battles’, and often. By resetting expectations and boundaries, managers can create clarity and accountability, facilitating positive change.

Owning Your Leadership Identity:

Effective leadership in managing difficult employees requires confidence, assertiveness, and authenticity. We must own our leadership identity and communicate with clarity and conviction. This involves leading by example, demonstrating integrity and professionalism, and holding employees accountable for their actions. By embodying strong leadership qualities, you’ll inspire trust and respect among your team members and navigate challenging situations with more confidence.

Dealing with difficult employees is a crucial aspect of being a Great Boss. By understanding the underlying reasons for difficult behaviour, structuring difficult conversations with empathy and clarity, resetting expectations and boundaries, and owning your leadership identity, you can effectively manage challenging situations and build a positive work environment.

Good Luck!

308 views0 comments


bottom of page