This week a friend shared with me about a situation in her office environment with a challenging employee.  This employee is new to the team and is very talented in her skill set.  However, she is overbearing, bossy and downright mean to others that she perceives that she is “better and smarter” than.   This has begun to take its toll on the formerly well bonded team.  They can feel her negativity and try to avoid her at all costs.  Can this one person ruin the positive culture in their work environment?  What’s a boss to do in this situation?

Well maybe “ruin” is a broad term, but it can definitely effect how the team functions together.  When the team is always on guard and operating in fear, it can affect their productivity.   When this behavior is accepted and not addressed, it becomes the norm, and the challenging employee gets his/her negative behavior positively reinforced!  Just like the whinny 5 year old who pitches a fit when they don’t get what they want…and then someone gives in.

Robert Bacal, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dealing with Difficult Employees,says “…difficult people mainly use their conduct to control their situations and other people’s reactions. Because people respond differently to the difficult person, the difficult person can manipulate, control and influence the reactions of those involved in the encounter. Even if bad things happen to difficult people, the payoff is that they have created the situation, and that gives them a sense of control.”

So what’s a boss to do if they identify this negative behavior with one of their team members?  Here are a few tips to move you in the right direction:

1. Get your facts. Document the situations where the person’s behavior was inappropriate.

2.  Have a one on one conversation with the employee. Share some feedback with them about their         behavior (not them personally) and how they are perceived.  They may be totally unconscious to what comes out of their mouth and how they act.

3.  Let them know what type of behavior you expect of them. If this is challenging for them, perhaps they need some one on one coaching in dealing with employees.  Some people behave this way for years and everyone is afraid to confront them.  Give them the opportunity to change.

4.  Be the example of the behavior you want to see from them. Perhaps they have bosses in the past just like them, so they are only showing the behavior of what has been modeled to them.  Show them how you want them to be.  Be the positive mentor to them.

5. When you see the employee exhibiting positive behavior and their willingness the change, PRAISE THEM!! This is positive reinforcement for their good behavior.  Catch them doing something right and let them know you see a positive change.

The one bad apple doesn’t have to spoil the whole bunch.  However, if negative behavior is not addressed quickly, its affects can change a team quickly.  Addressing it quickly, gives the person an opportunity to change how they are with others.  These suggestions are in line if you believe that the employee will open their minds and hearts to change.  If you have given them the opportunity to change and you don’t see the results you want, then its time to change the employee.

Leadership creates the culture of the team.  Open communication with all employees, even the difficult ones, can solidify the strength of heart and soul of the leadership.