With so many different people and personalities filling our workplaces, it’s inevitable that there’s at least one difficult employee can be found. Whether it’s the person who always arrives late with a coffee in their hand or the person who sends emails to everyone yet never replies to theirs, you are left in the position of having to manage them. And while most don’t showcase their challenging tendencies until well-after hiring, what can you do to manage these employees in a compliant manner?

Difficult employees can fall into many categories, however, the snoozer, the grump, the patient, and the bludger are the most common. Here we explain these four types of difficult employees and how to deal with them in your workplace.

1. The snoozer

A snoozer’s excuses can range from I slept through my alarm to bad traffic, and while sometimes these are valid, other times these excuses can become all too convenient when they’re accompanied by a hot coffee and breakfast. Being late happens, and with so many things outside our control getting to work on time is truly a feat, but when it becomes a pattern that’s when it’s clear that standards of professionalism in the workplace are not being met.

How do I manage this?

Recognising that there’s an issue with an employee’s conduct is the first step, and then it’s time to manage the situation. Documenting an employee’s conduct can help identify patterns of behaviour that need to be rectified and managed appropriately. After acknowledging that there’s a pattern of behaviour that needs to be fixed, issuing a warning can give the employee the chance to fix their conduct and adjust it to meet the business’s professional standards.

Often employees can be unaware that their tardiness is causing a problem, however, once it’s been brought to their attention and they continue to disregard their start time, this can be considered grounds for termination.

2. The grump

No one wants to be around someone with a bad attitude, let alone work closely with them – these negative vibes are bound to impact team morale and productivity. Have you ever noticed that these types of challenging employees will attempt to put their best foot forward at the beginning of the employment relationship, and these issues may not always present themselves initially? It can take time for true colours to show, but when they do, what can you do? Can you dismiss someone simply for their rudeness or bad attitude?

How do I manage this?

We all have our bad days, and our moods fluctuate from highs and lows but dealing with someone who is constantly negative can have a serious impact on workplace morale. And while we don’t intend to bring our personal feelings into the workplace, it happens. The first thing to do when faced with a grumpy employee is give them the benefit of the doubt – there is a multitude of things that could’ve triggered the grump to appear, and the reason could very well be something unrelated to the workplace. Ask the question ‘Is everything okay?’ and offer them the space to share. This could be what alerts you to a potential workplace issue that needs your attention or allows you to offer important support to an employee who needs it.

If this doesn’t solve the bad attitude problem, then the next step is to go over the business’s code of conduct policy with the employee explaining the standards expected from staff in the workplace. If, after this, the behaviour continues after warnings have been issued, you can begin considering transitioning the employee out of the organisation.

3. The patient

Everyone gets sick, and there’s nothing we can do to stop that. After navigating through a global pandemic, we know all too well just how cautious we must be when it comes to spreading sickness. But what happens when you’re faced with an employee who is constantly calling in sick? It’s a tricky situation, and while you want to be understanding, seeing the pile of work grow can become increasingly frustrating.

How do I manage this?

When an employee is on an extended period of absence from the workplace due to personal illness or injury, this can create considerable uncertainty for a business. These situations are never easy! As an employer, you need to be mindful of certain employee protections that restrict how you respond in these situations.

It is unlawful under section 352 of the Fair Work Act 2009 to terminate an employee who is on a temporary absence due to illness. An illness or injury is not a temporary absence if it extends for more than three consecutive months or a total of not less than three months over a 12-month period. This means an employee who has been absent from the workplace due to illness or injury for more than three months will lose their protection against this kind of dismissal.

However, whilst employees may lose this protection, this does not mean that employers should terminate immediately. An employee who is dismissed on a period of absence due to their illness or injury will still have access to other workplace claims such as unfair dismissal claims (depending on their length of service), general protections claims, as well as a discrimination claim under the relevant federal or state anti-discrimination laws.

4. The bludger

Productivity isn’t linear, it fluctuates in every workplace. And while everyone has inevitable slumps in output, it’s when tasks start to stack up on one employee’s to-do list that frustration can build. They show up to meetings and send the occasional email, yet their productivity levels just don’t reflect the hours spent at work.

How do I manage this?

Dealing with a certified bludger calls for performance management steps. Performance management covers everything from monitoring an employee’s output to scheduling regular (and important) performance review meetings. Catching up with an employee can be as simple as an informal one-on-one meeting held over Zoom or a formal in-person session where you can share the expectations of the employee in their role. If the bludging continues despite the employee being given every opportunity to rectify their behaviour, you can start considering the termination process.

Take the pain out of performance reviews

Regardless of where your employees work, with enableHR by your side, you’ll be able to access the flexible performance review module – it’s the perfect tool to help you build and maintain a culture of high performance and iron out any people management issues using legally compliant HR processes.

We believe HR should be simple. Simple enough for you to run your business confidently. enableHR has everything you need to manage the entire employee lifecycle from recruitment and onboarding to performance management and termination. If you’d like to see enableHR in action, contact us to learn more about how we can help your business.