How to Deal With a Troublemaker Employee

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A troublemaker employee can cause discord in a work environment.
A troublemaker employee can cause discord in a work environment. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Dealing with an employee who has a bad attitude or who likes to stir up problems in the workplace requires a solid understanding of the employee's behavior and history. The key to dealing with a troublemaker employee is communication. A troublemaker employee must understand which of his actions or words are causing problems. He also must understand that if these words or actions continue, his employment may be affected. Without clear communication, you are unlikely to effectively resolve an issue with a troublemaker employee.

Recognize that there is a problem. and realize that the employee is unlikely to change unless you take some action. Although it is true that everybody is different, you cannot simply excuse the actions of an employee whose habits or words are causing undue stress in the workplace. The employee must be accountable for his words and actions and you -- as the supervisor -- must be accountable for dealing with him.

Speak in private with the troublemaker employee. Let him know in a direct and professional tone that his actions are not acceptable. Point out specific occurrences or situations in which you have noticed his words or actions were detrimental. Inform him that his actions or words are against the organization's standards or policies. In some situations, troublemakers simply do not fully comprehend the seriousness of their actions.

Ask the troublemaker why he says the things or acts the way he does. There could be an underlying reason to many of his actions. If the troublemaker feels that speaking out in meetings or behind others' backs is the only way to express his opinion, seek to foster between you and him a more-effective communication channel. Do not accept the actions he has taken, but do recognize there may be things you can do to decrease the likelihood of them occurring again.

Let the employee know that you expect his behavior to improve. Set a timetable and tell him you will review his conduct again at that time. If you tell the employee you will review his behavior again after one week, take notice of any negative behavior during the week. Also, notice examples in which you see him trying to do better. The employee may not become an ideal employee overnight, but if you see progress, reward that progress by letting him know you appreciate the actions he is taking.

Document your interactions with the troublemaker employee starting with the time you first speak to him about your concerns. If the employee is unwilling to change, having documentation of your conversations and of incidents that have led to your involvement will make it easier for you to terminate or suspend the employee if you feel he is not embracing the changes you suggested he make.

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