There are many types of employees, from the diligent to the lazy ones, from the chatty to the quiet ones, from the reliable to the less reliable ones. Many leaders know best performers rarely bring up problems within workplaces. Meanwhile, difficult employees are often the ones creating headaches for HR and management. Difficult employees come in many shapes and sizes, here are some types of difficult employees you might have encountered during your career journey.
1- The ones with bad attitudes
- One tough babe/dude: A workplace bully who is always acting tough and coming on strong.
- A serious threat: An employee who appears to pose a serious threat, perhaps due to being mentally unstable, physically powerful, part of a culture of violence, or having criminal connections.
- Prima donna: A previously well-performing employee who is suddenly thrust into a supervisory or management position and becomes intoxicated with his new-found power.
- The arrogant: A good employee who knows that they are good and repeatedly lets other people know it – often in an arrogant, abrasive, and obnoxious manner.
- Across a cultural chasm: An employee who can’t fit into the culture with the rest of the employees, thus creating tension in the office.
- Negative nelly/ned: An employee with a negative attitude who is always looking for what’s wrong or what could go wrong in a situation, and is constantly whining and complaining.
- The bean-spiller: An employee who can’t keep a secret and either stirs up other employees with the information they share or breach the confidence of customer records.
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2- The ones who are incompetent
- The impossible intern: An employee who is just getting her feet wet and doesn’t know how to conform to the rigors and restrictions of the workplace.
- Damaged goods: An employee who is a problem for everyone and gets passed on from manager to manager.
- Getting it wrong kinda type: An employee who, while well-meaning and eager to please, doesn’t have the skills or aptitude to do the job right – and might be clueless about that fact.
- Friends forever: An employee who is hired because of a relationship with a friend or family member but turns out to be incompetent, socially maladapted, or both.
- Protected by the Big Boss: An employee whom you hire because your boss wants you to, and who turns out to be someone you shouldn’t have hired.
- Last to know: The difficult employees who remain on the job for months because his coworkers don’t want to be the ones to tell the boss and get that person fired.
3- The ones who have/bring personal issue at work
- The sensitive soul: An employee who is overly sensitive when it comes to taking any criticism and reacts to it as if taking a blow to the heart, thus making it difficult for you to give him/her any real feedback.
- One problem after another: An employee who is going through a difficult time and has lots of problems. You show compassion for a while, but eventually you need to put the needs of the business first.
- Too Much, Too Soon: An employee who seems to have all the right stuff on paper but, in the trenches with many tasks and responsibilities, can’t handle the multitasking and stress of his position.
- In the drink: An employee who has turned to drugs and/or alcohol, leading to problems such as tardiness, absenteeism, mistakes on the job, and greater susceptibility to accidents.
- Sick and tired: An employee who calls in sick a lot, whether because she is really sick or possibly doesn’t like the job, is bored, has something more interesting to do, or is looking for another job.
- Scary: An employee with major personal problems that you are unaware of, because either he keeps those problems hidden or other employees don’t tell you about them.
- Romantic person: Employees who are uncomfortable working together due to sexual tensions in the workplace – possibly arising from suggestive comments, staring, groping, or an actual intimate relationship.
See also: How Managers Can Change Their Bad Habit
4- The ones who break trust and honesty
- Liar, Liar: An employee who is loose with the truth, occasionally so artfully that her lies aren’t caught until some Big Lie is revealed, leaving coworkers and management feeling like fools.
- It’s the little things: An employee who takes advantage of gaps in the system or his manager’s good nature to get away with an increasing number of “little things” that might add up and implicitly encourage other employees to do the same.
- Over a Barrel: An employee who has been given increased responsibility and uses the new position of power to demand even more, including increased compensation.
- Con job: An employee who is a con artist – a master of charm and smooth talking, but little substance.
- Pay or Play: An employee who appears to be trying to scam you by using government regulations, complaints to regulatory agencies, or the threat of a complaint or lawsuit to force a monetary settlement.
- Social networker: An employee who is not productive due to use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social-networking sites during work hours.
- Backstabber: An employee who takes credit for work others have done.
- Blame game: An employee who refuses to take responsibility for poor work or mistakes, and places the blame on others.
5- The ones who lack communication
- Communication breakdown: An employee with whom you think you’re communicating, and who claims to understand what you’re saying, but who ultimately does assigned tasks incorrectly – or not at all.
- What are you talking about?: An employee who does specialized work and speaks a kind of “techno-babble” that you simply don’t understand, and who uses that language to conceal and misdirect when she does something wrong.
- Silence is golden: An inarticulate, hard-to-talk-to employee in a position where being a team player and/or good communicator is important.
- Who’s in charge here?: A difficult employee who is able to hide within a complex chain of command and avoid detection, supervision, and/or accountability.
- When the cat’s away: An employee who is entrusted with supervising coworkers while a regular manager is out of the office and who does so irresponsibly and/or ineffectively and sometimes conceals critical information about problems that occurred during the manager’s absence.
- Putting the customer first: An employee who embraces the “putting the customer first” ethic but takes it too far, such as running up costs in the name of customer service, to the detriment of the business.
- Simply cold and non-communicative: An employee who does not participate in meetings or provide management and coworkers with updates on assignments.
Defining what type your employees fall into based on this list can be useful. As a manager, you might find it somewhat comforting to know that certain difficult behaviours aren’t unique to the employees you supervise. If you’re encountering several difficulties in a particular classification, you might want to re-examine your communication skills to assess whether you might be part of the problem.
Finally, different types of difficult behaviour will call for different responses and strategies, so you might find it helpful to tailor your approach (and/or seek additional guidance from others) specific to the type of difficulty you’re dealing with.
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