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    Workstream | 4 min read

    6 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Employees

    HR managers often face the fear of hiring difficult hourly workers as they negatively impact the productivity and morale of the team. The most straightforward way in dealing with such situations is to watch out for red flags in an applicant during the hiring process and - or on the other end of the spectrum, look specifically for the traits you look for in your ideal candidate.

    However, what happens when you have already hired an hourly worker that turns out to be more difficult than expected? It may be the jitters of starting a new job making them show up late for work, performing poorly with poor work ethics, and then it turns into rebelling against requests and being uncooperative within a team. The list goes on.

    Here are a few strategies that companies could adopt to effectively deal with difficult hourly workers in the workplace.

    1. Assign a Mentor 

    Training does not conclude after the onboarding process. Assign a regular full-time staff as a mentor for your hourly worker. The mentor should hold the relevant skill sets to train the hourly worker on their job responsibilities and be a role model to follow. Additionally, the trainer has to be patient and possess good communication skills in order to motivate the hourly worker in their work. More often, hourly workers do not feel engaged enough in their work as updates of the company were not being conveyed to them. Doing so also gives the hourly worker a sense of belonging to the team and make them feel more welcomed. Not only does assigning a mentor help guide acceptable behavior for the hourly worker, the added responsibility reaffirms the full-time staff that they are performing well in their job.

    2. Communicate

    Communication is key. Take some time out to talk to your hourly worker privately and understand their current situation and give your best shot to provide them with a better work environment. Sometimes, they may feel under appreciated when tasks that were assigned to them were considered more towards administrative work or “low-level task” rather than what was described in the job role. Very often, employers are unaware about the needs of their employees or rather, employees do not feel comfortable about approaching a person of higher hierarchy with their personal problems. Hence, it is encouraged to approach this as a friend rather than on an employer-employee relationship level. It is important to be consistently keep yourself in check when communicating with your hourly worker as you will want to communicate positively and appear approachable.  

    If they are juggling multiple commitments such as school, you can offer them more flexible hours while keeping the consistency of the basic work requirements to better suit their schedules. You can also go the extra mile and understand what motivates your hourly worker to perform better at his job. This would allow employers adapt accordingly and provide a better working environment for the hourly worker.

    3. Set Goals

    After talking and listening to your hourly worker, take into account their current situation and set new goals and expectations for your hourly worker. Examples include setting up a list of dos and don’ts so that they can get into routine and gel together with the team. With effective goal-setting and an objective in mind, hourly workers will be more motivated to perform and achieve the aim. Put the plan in writing so as to monitor the progress and follow-up with the goals set.

    4. Positive Reinforcement

    Have a mini celebration for your hourly workers whenever milestones or goals were met. This acts as a form of positive reinforcement for the hourly workers that helps strengthen the desirable behavior displayed. It could be simple rewards like awarding a merit point to each time they get to work on time or taking initiatives to solve problems. Upon accumulation of a certain amount of merit points, employers can reward them with a mini bonus in the form of a paycheck. Employers can also offer opportunities for advancement for further motivation.

    5. Give Clear Behavioral Feedback

    Giving clear and effective behavioral feedback is essential in monitoring performance of your hourly worker. There are times when the expectations of the employers and actions of the employees differ and hence, providing feedback helps to bridge this gap. To provide constructing feedback, it has to contain specific information on where they can improve their performance on. This can be conducted on a regular basis as a form of monthly performance review and appraisal.

    However, this approach has to be treaded carefully. Not everyone is receptive to feedback and constructive criticism. In order to effectively convey negative feedback, one has to be professional and remember to balance the negative aspects with positive feedback on what the hourly worker performed well in.

    6. Be Consistent

    Lastly, it is important to be consistent in your messaging and tone. Set consequences to undesirable behavior that your hourly worker display and stay true to it. If their behavior does not improve along time, you do not have to adapt to the behavior, but instead, be more specific and stay true to the consequences that was set in the first place. This helps with setting a firm example for the other employees as well.

    With these strategies, companies will be better able to handle problematic behavior of their hourly workers in the workplace. Here’s one last note: ensure that the working environment is a nurturing one such that the other employees do not badmouth the difficult hourly worker. Such actions would promote distrust which ultimately causes a drop in productivity and morale of the team – and the cycle repeats itself.

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    Desirene Neo

    Desirene is a marketer and content-writer of Workstream. She has been with the Workstream team for over a year and is based in Singapore.

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