How to Manage Difficult Staff Members in the Workplace

Are you struggling with how to manage difficult staff members in the workplace? One of the most important things you can do is to establish clear expectations and consequences from the outset. This will help avoid power struggles and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

You should also be consistent in your approach – if you make an exception for one person, it sets a precedent for others to follow suit. If difficulties arise, address them directly and immediately. And if necessary, seek outside help from a professional or experienced colleague who can offer guidance and support.

Here are 5 ways how to manage difficult staff members in the workplace.

Table of Contents

Establish Clear Expectations and Consequences

Learning how to manage difficult staff members is crucial in maintaining a productive and positive work environment.

One way to do this is to establish clear expectations and consequences. When staff members know what is expected of them, they are more likely to meet those expectations.

Likewise, if they know what will happen if they don’t meet those expectations, they will be more likely to try to avoid those consequences.

Of course, every situation is different and you will need to tailor your approach to the individual staff member in question. But in general, it is important to be clear, consistent, and firm when setting expectations and enforcing consequences.

Avoid Power Struggles

We’ve all been there before. You’re managing a team of staff members and there’s always one (or more) that just seem to cause problems. Maybe they’re always arguing with others, or maybe they’re just difficult to work with.

Either way, it can be frustrating trying to manage them.

Here are some tips on how to avoid power struggles with difficult staff members.

1. Keep Communication Open

It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with all of your staff members, but it’s especially important with those who are difficult to work with.

By staying in communication with them, you can help diffuse any potential arguments or disagreements before they even start.

2. Be Clear About Expectations

Be clear about your expectations for their behavior and their work, and make sure they understand what the consequences are if they don’t meet those expectations.

3. Be Consistent

If you’re inconsistent with your staff members, they will quickly learn that they can get away with certain behaviors. But if you’re consistent with your expectations and consequences, they will be less likely to test the limits.

4. Be Fair

It’s important to be fair with all of your staff members, but it’s especially important with those who are difficult to work with. If they feel like they’re being treated unfairly, it will only make the situation worse.

5. Be Firm

If a staff member is not meeting your expectations, you need to be firm with them. Let them know that their behavior is not acceptable and that you will not tolerate it.

Key Takeaway: It’s important to keep communication open, be clear about expectations, be consistent, be fair, and be firm with difficult staff members.

Be Consistent in Your Approach

The best way how to manage difficult staff members is to be consistent in your approach. Whether you’re dealing with a problem employee or simply trying to keep everyone on the same page, being consistent is key.

Of course, this can be easier said than done. We all have our own individual management style and it can be tough to stick to one way of doing things when there are so many different ways to skin a cat, so to speak.

But trust us, being consistent will pay off in the long run.

Here are a few tips to help you be more consistent in your approach to people management.

1. Define Your Expectations

Before you can expect your staff to meet your expectations, you need to clearly define what those expectations are. Write them down and make sure everyone knows what they are.

2. Hold Everyone Accountable

If someone isn’t meeting your expectations, don’t just let it slide. Hold them accountable and make sure they know that you’re serious about your expectations.


3. Be Consistent With Your Enforcement

If you let someone off the hook for not meeting your expectations, you’re sending the message that it’s okay to slack off. But if you’re consistent with your enforcement, people will know that you mean business.

4. Be Flexible When Necessary

There will be times when being flexible is more important than being consistent. If someone has a legitimate reason for not being able to meet your expectations, be flexible and work with them.

5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Make sure you’re communicating your expectations to your staff on a regular basis. And when there are changes to your expectations, make sure you communicate those changes as well.

Key Takeaway: It’s important to be consistent in your management style in order to be an effective leader.

Address the Issue Directly and Immediately

It’s inevitable that you’ll come across difficult staff members during your time as a manager. The key to managing these individuals is to address the issue directly and immediately. By doing so, you’ll be able to nip the problem in the bud and avoid any further issues down the road.

When addressing the issue, be sure to be clear and concise in your communication. State the problem directly, and explain how it’s impacting the team. Then, provide a solution that you expect the staff member to follow.

Finally, reiterate the consequences that will occur if the problem persists. By taking this proactive approach, you’ll be able to effectively manage difficult staff members and keep your team running smoothly.

Seek Outside Help If Necessary

If you’re struggling with how to manage difficult staff members, you may seek outside help if necessary. There are a lot of resources available to help managers and leaders become better at their jobs. These include books, websites, and courses on management and leadership.

Key Takeaway: If you’re struggling to manage difficult staff members, there are a lot of resources available to help.

FAQs About How to Manage Difficult Staff Members

How would you manage a difficult member of staff?

  • Do not ignore the negativity.
  • Look at the bigger picture.
  • Do not tolerate excuses.
  • Make the employee part of the solution.
  • Encourage positive behavior.
  • Develop an action plan.
  • Give clear feedback.

How do you deal with a toxic staff member?

  • Have a thoughtful discussion in private.
  • Be prepared for pushback.
  • Document everything.
  • Offer constructive feedback in public.
  • Attack the behavior, not the character.
  • Continue to grow as a manager.

How do you manage insubordinate staff?

  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Don’t lose your cool.
  • Provide as much support as possible.
  • Be honest.
  • Don’t stop doing your job.
  • Consult with HR.


There are a few different ways how to manage difficult staff members.

One way is to have a conversation with the staff member in question and try to come to a resolution.

Another way is to document the insubordinate behavior and write up a formal warning.

And finally, if the behavior continues, you may need to consider termination. offers a wealth of resources to help people become better managers and leaders. Our services can help you learn how to effectively communicate with difficult staff members, understand different management styles, and develop the skills necessary to create a productive and positive work environment.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you improve your management skills!

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