How to Manage a Belligerent Employee

By | November 10, 2014

Kool Derby

There are some people on your team that are tough to manage. They have all the answers, and they are unwilling to play nice. During meetings, these belligerent employees do their best to show you how bored they are with the proceedings. For the most part, they arrive to meetings on time, but they are pre-occupied with other issues. When the meeting begins, they are reading emails from their iPhones, or engaged in something unrelated to work.

Put Your Foot Down

As a manager, it’s critical that you set the ground rules. You cannot allow one person to cause problems for the rest of the team. I make it a point that unprofessional behavior will never be tolerated.

Here are some ways that I communicate this point in my meetings:

  • “I want to let you know that I appreciate everyone being here. As we begin to work with each other, I want to reinforce the importance of professionalism. For us to succeed, we must respect each other.”
  • “Remember that we are a team. When someone needs your help, make sure to step in and contribute. By working together, your project will succeed.”
  • “Please understand that we all bring significant value to this project. To excel, we need to combine our talents. Your level of engagement makes a huge difference.”
  • “We can expect conflict to occur on our team. This is normal. When conflict does arise, let’s work together to resolve it. However, let’s avoid finger-pointing. Instead, let’s become problem-solvers.”

When to Intervene

As a manager, it’s important to allow team members to resolve their own issues. During initial meetings, inform the employees that you expect them to work together when a problem arises. In most cases, the team can handle work-related situations.

However, you may have to intervene when a “bad-apple” is causing problems. The individual might be using an autocratic style as if the opinions of others do not matter. In essence, he wants to be the informal leader.

I recommend that you immediately step in and confront the problem. An off-line conversation might do the trick, but you must be forthright, such as: “Dan, I do appreciate your points regarding the Manila project. However, please understand that we must seek the expert judgment from other team members. When participating in the team, let’s work together to find a common solution. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this approach.”

Once you set the guidelines, you must ensure they are followed. Make sure that you stay engaged because employees will test you. They want to know if you really mean what you say.

Working with tough people is part of the process. Regardless of the type of work you do, you will run into individuals who are difficult, and sometimes outright belligerent. As a manager, you need to set the ground rules right away. When someone fails to follow your guidelines, confront the problem. By taking immediate action, your team has a better chance of working harmoniously and meeting the expectations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *