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Mentoring the Difficult Employee

Aug 17, 2007
Mentoring is not an easy task. It is made even more challenging when dealing with the "difficult" employee. Here are the top 6 techniques for managing through the "difficult relationships" and coming out a winner when it's all over.

1. Separate the employee from the situation. First of all, it is not the employee who is difficult, it is the situation. Separate the employee from the situation in your mind and through your actions so that you can build a cohesive relationship with your employees. If they think that you consider them to be difficult employees, they will be less likely to build a trusting bond with you and less likely to change their difficult behaviors. Use language such as, "This is a challenging situation."

2. Identify the behaviors that indicate a "bad attitude". When we are talking among our management peers, it's easy to talk about the employees who have a "bad attitude". But we can't approach our employees with that kind of label and expect to be a successful leader. Label the behaviors not the attitudes. "Mary, when you cross your arms, roll your eyes and only give me one word answers to the questions I ask, it gives me the perception that you do not want to be here and do not care about what I say. As your leader, I would like to have a productive conversation. Can you tell me what you are thinking or feeling as you display these behaviors?" Do not tolerate behaviors that indicate a "bad attitude".

3. Ask A LOT of questions. Questions are a key part in being a strong mentor and driving change. Rather than make statements, learn to ask strategic questions. For those employees who are less engaging and appear less interested in coaching situations actually require more questions, even though your inclination to ask fewer just to quickly completely the coaching task. Take the time to think through your questions so they are strategic and contribute to a successful coaching situation.

4. Find out the root cause of the negativity. Maybe this employee is disgruntled because you received the promotion that she thought she deserved. He might be upset because there are personal situations occurring in his life that he does not feel the company is supportive of. She might be reacting to a leader that she had in the past and just can't seem to make the leap to a fresh perspective with a new manager. Whatever the reason, your employees have root causes for their behaviors. Ask questions to find out the real reason for the negative vibes you are receiving.

5. Provide plenty of inspirational acknowledgements for a job well done. Appropriate and positive praise will go a long way toward making constructive change in your relationship. "I really appreciate your contributions that you make to this team." "I appreciate the length of service that you have given to this company." "I value the knowledge and expertise of our products that you bring to this organization." "I appreciate your feedback on the new processes." "I respect your opinion about our new procedures that were just announced." These acknowledging phrases will prompt employees to contribute more to the conversation as long as they sense that you are genuine. The biggest value that is important between leaders and their employees is trust. If your employees feel that they can trust you, you will make tremendous strides in your relationship with them.

6. Hold your ground. It is important that you set the standards and hold them accountable to achieving them. It is not acceptable to talk negatively about other teammates. It is also not acceptable to not make direct eye contact when spoken to. Be sure that you are clear with your expectations and consistently hold them accountable to those same expectations and you will gain their trust and respect.

Examine your coaching style and ensure that these techniques are a natural part of your mentoring strategy. Make a list of the ones that you would like to accomplish better and hold yourself accountable for driving change. The worst feeling is knowing that you have to meet with a difficult employee month after month. Develop a plan for changing the direction of that meeting so that you no longer have to dread calling the "difficult employee" into your office. You have the power to change the direction of these meetings with your WOW mentoring skills.
About the Author
With 23 years of call center experience, national speaker and author, Kimberly King, helps clients create WOW customer experiences. Contact her at http://www.interweavecorp.com or 877-969-3283. You will be WOWed by her passion and knowledge.
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