Tip #1003: The WHY and HOW of Difficult Employee Behavior

If we want to manage difficult employee behavior effectively, we need to know WHY the person is acting out.

Once we know WHY the employee’s behavior makes sense to them, only then can we determine HOW best to manage that behavior.

For example,  let’s consider the employee who doesn’t understand an assignment yet doesn’t ask for help or clarification.

Depending on the nature of the assignment, their lack of understanding can have terrible repercussions.

Their rationale for their behavior may be that they don’t want to:

  • look stupid,
  • disappoint the manager, or
  • admit that they have less skill than they may have indicated.

They may learn differently than how the assignment was explained.

Or maybe they came from an environment where there were negative consequences if they asked for help.

When we consider WHY they might have acted the way they did, we can then consider HOW to manage them.

If we want them to feel comfortable asking for help, we could reassure them by telling a personal story where we asked for help and received it without negative consequences.

If we see nonverbal cues that they look confused or unsure, we can ask them “What are your questions?” to indicate that we fully expect them to have questions.

We can ask them how they like to learn new assignments, rather than assuming that they have the same learning preferences that we do.

To ensure they understand what is expected of them, we can have them:

  • repeat the instructions
  • explain how they plan to begin, and/or
  • identify any obstacles that might prevent them from performing satisfactorily.

The bottom line: Rather than simply deciding to be difficult, there are many reasons WHY their behavior may make sense to employees.

Our job as managers is to consider the possibilities so that we can revise HOW we approach resolving the situation.

P.S. Could analyzing the WHY and HOW help you manage difficult employee behavior?

May your learning be sweet,


#performancemanagement #difficultemployees #laurelandassociatesltd. #behavioranalysis

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