difficultemployeesIf you are in management at a call center or for a customer support/service organization, you will undoubtedly face the task of coaching and managing difficult employees. Call centers and customer support jobs tend to be stressful positions, as employees are constantly dealing with upset customers and spend the majority of their day problem-solving. The stress of the job and frustrations of dealing with difficult customers often spills onto employees, leading to short-tempers and decreased work performance.
As a manager, it’s your job to help diffuse tension, coach and encourage your employees, and re-establish the peace in your work environment so that your staff can remain focused on providing excellent customer service. If you have employees who are continually causing problems, follow our tried and true coaching tips for difficult employees. With the right approach and patience, you’ll be able to keep your employees happy, which ultimately translates to more satisfied customers.
First, seek to understand
Before you take the step of confronting the employee, do your research. What is the environment that the employee is working in? If the employee is in a customer service role with especially difficult calls, is the problem behavior a result of heightened stress? How does the employee get along with other employees? Does the employee feel singled out or that he or she is not getting due recognition for the job? What is the employee’s background and previous work experience? And finally, you won’t be able to investigate personally, but keep in mind that your employee could be dealing with personal issues outside of work that are affecting the employee’s attitude and job performance.
Arm yourself with as much background information that is prudent to obtain before you sit down with the employee to discuss the behavior and problem.
Separate the problem from the person
A key coaching tip for difficult employees is to deal with the p
roblem and not the person. When you do sit down with the employee to discuss the issue, keep your feedback focused on the problem behavior and not the employee as a person. Offer an assessment of the behavior without pass
ing judgment on whether it is good or bad; focus on the actions and consequences without being evaluative about the person’s character.
Stay neutral and don’t take sides If other employees are involved and offer their input or complaints about the employee whose behavior is in question, be careful not to take sides. If you solicit input from other employees, ask for facts and behaviors, instead of probing for personality characteristics. It can be easy for employees and teams to take sides when there is a problem employee or team, and as a manager, it’s your job to not foster an “us versus them” environment. A great coaching tip for difficult employees to keep in mind is that you are not there to make friends or pick favorites – your job is to help each employee excel.
Never embarrass the employee
Any time you are dealing with a problem employee, be discreet. Discuss the issue with the employee behind closed doors, and do it in a way that is not insulting. First ask the employee if he or she is aware of any issues and give the person a chance to identify and explain the behavior. If the employee is unaware of the problem behavior, remember to keep the discussion focused on the issue and not the employee’s character. Work with the employee to develop a plan that will help rectify the poor conduct and lead the employee back to more acceptable work performance. Make sure the employee clearly understands what he or she needs to do to correct the problem, and give the person a timeline for improvement.
Provide feedback and applaud the positive
After you’ve taken the time to sit down with the employee, discussed the problem, and determined a course of corrective action, your next step is to provide additional monitoring for the employee’s work performance and behavior. A coaching tip for difficult employees to keep in mind is positive reinforcement – you’ve already called out the negative behavior, so accentuate the positive gains to help boost the employee’s confidence and guide him or her back to the type of job performance your company expects.
Coaching difficult employees can be rewarding
When coaching difficult employees, keep in mind that your own attitude counts just as much as your employees’ attitudes; if you approach problems proactively and work to solve them positively, you will be fostering a work environment where employees don’t feel threatened, and they’ll know that if they make mistakes, they have a chance to improve their behavior, learn, and improve. At the end of the day, you’ll find your own job much more rewarding as you learn to work with employees, instead of against them.
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