• Dealing With A Difficult Staff Member

    Practice managers can often feel like they are facing an uphill battle when it comes to dealing with difficult staff. We’re all human, but as any manager knows, some employees tend to be consistently more difficult than others.  

    Sometimes that staff member’s attitude can eventuate into hurtful behaviour, which will do far more damage to your clinic than you may initially realise – I’m talking about the damage to morale, productivity, and the creation of a toxic environment that affects the clinic’s entire workforce.  

    So what are the characteristics of a difficult employee? They can include attendance issues, distracting others from work, lack of motivation or enthusiasm, an argumentative and rude or violent attitude, lack of respect or tolerance for others, taking part in workplace gossip, ignoring rules and procedures, and behaviour that intimidates or threatens others.  

    Here are a few ways you can address the behaviour of a difficult employee to minimalise the damage.  

    Understanding The Problem 

    First and foremost is getting to the root of the behaviour, so before attempting to correct any problematic attitudes, you need to understand what may be causing it.  

    This is where your ability to listen without judgment comes into effect. Your staff generally want to enjoy where they work, so if you can help them remove the troubles that are preventing them from enjoying it, you can potentially make a full turnaround in behaviour.  

    Ensure you go into the conversation with an open mind, and be mindful of body language and eye contact as you focus on what they’re saying. Perhaps they have issues at home or maybe there’s a hidden workplace dynamic affecting their situation you need to know about. Do your best to be empathetic and let them know they can confide in you without assumption or judgement.  

    Be Respectful, Be Remindful 

    Staff members might not always see the big picture about why certain behaviours matter in your medical practice – they could very well see their actions as ‘no big deal’. Here is where you need to set clear expectations and that might involve sitting down one-on-one with each employee to ascertain and remind them of what’s expected within their role.  

    Work with any difficult staff members to create an ‘action plan’ to address concerns – this can include writing down those expectations, what the process will be for measuring progress, and the consequences for failing to make any improvements.  

    In other words, this will hold them accountable for their actions and allow them to realise that someone is watching and genuinely cares.  

    Offer Support 

    Changing an individual’s behaviour can be hard, and it’s not something that happens overnight – often, it may take more than just a verbal redirection to make a meaningful change.  

    You can increase the chances, though, of improved behaviour by offering support and additional tools to help them along. For instance, if your problematic employee is facing personal troubles at home, they may benefit from counselling – some workplaces offer programs with partnered health practitioners to help manage those personal issues, so ensure you get them connected to any and all resources you have.  

    If the problem, however, is work-related you can try to adjust a difficult employee’s work responsibilities or meet with other staff members to alter company culture.  


    Keep It Private  

    Publicly bad-mouthing a difficult employee in front of colleagues won’t paint you in a good light and will sabotage any chance you have of reaching out to them. The feedback and corrective action you encourage should not be shared with anyone, least of all the employee’s coworkers – so above all else, remember to keep it private.   

    staff issues

    The most important thing to remember in this situation of having a difficult employee is to not ignore the problem. If you do, it could get worse and affect the performance of others if it doesn’t already. The best way to deal with them is to ask questions and listen, allow them to speak their side of the story, then set boundaries once the solutions have been identified.  

    I’d love to hear how you dealt with a difficult employee, if you had one, and what solution worked best. Did you get a positive outcome? What coping mechanisms did you enforce? Get in touch with me today to let me know.