Two Secrets for Coaching Difficult Employees

coaching difficult employees hr tip

Managers have daily challenges but one of the more taxing challenges is having to coach a difficult employee. To help you coach, here are some useful tools to aide you in teaching accountability and responsibility:

See also: The Good, the Bad, and the Truly Remarkable Bosses

coaching employeesTEACH ACCOUNTABILITY

This is a two-way street. Employees must be held accountable for what they do and how they behave. Good managers should also hold themselves to the same standard. Here are some tools to help you teach accountability to your staff:

  1. No-Surprise Environment: In order for any employee to be effective, they need clear written and/or verbal communication from you about their job expectations/requirements . Your staff also needs to know that you expect to be kept informed of what they are doing and why. With a difficult employee, do not be afraid to over communicate.  When evaluation time comes, no employee, especially a problem employee, should be surprised. On-going communication with employees is key. If a difficult-employee is making strides to correct and improve the situation, then a job-well done should be communicated.
  2. No- Excuses:  Let your employees know that you won’t accept excuses for failing to meet expectations and explain that because it’s a two-way street, you also agree to not offer them any excuses. Think about how you can turn an “I’ll try” into an “I will.” You want to encourage that employee to make that commitment. If they are struggling to make that commitment, ask them what is holding them back.
  3. No-Inconsistency: What you require from one employee, you should require of all employees. You want to strive to get the difficult employee’s performance on par with a good employee’s performance.


If you want to see improvement in your employees, then you have to shift responsibility onto them. Remember it’s the difficult employee who needs to change, not you.

  1. Clear Expectations: Say what you mean and mean what you say. You need to tell employees exactly what you expect in the way of behaviors and performance. The standards that you set must be measurable.
  2. Provide Training: Before you assign an employee task, make sure the employee has the skills and training they need to do the task in order to meet expectations.
  3. Consequences: Let employees know that there are positive and negative consequences for their actions. This will help employees set goals.
  4. Feedback: Because people don’t like changes, the road to change is never easy. However, providing feedback (positive and constructive) helps employees stay the course.
  5. Obstacles: Ask the employee what is preventing them from changing. If you can remove the obstacle, make every effort to do so. If you can’t, invite the employee to brainstorm some ideas of their own. You’d be surprise to find that most employees will come up with their own right answers if you choose not to accept “I don’t know.”


Employers Resource can walk you through these steps with our online forms.

We have a few miscellaneous forms available here like the disciplinary action form in our client forms area. This form is a useful tool because: 1. it can be used every time you coach your employee; 2. it helps you keep track of your all employee coaching conversations; 3. should it become necessary for you to terminate the employee, the forms will serve as necessary documentation.

Keep in mind that being an at-will- employment state (which allows you to terminate with or without cause) does not mean that unemployment benefits will not be granted to terminated employees.  The state is responsible for making the determination regarding whether or not the terminated employee is eligible for unemployment benefits, but you can increase the likelihood of a decision being in your favor by providing significant documentation showing a paper trail of continuous notice to the employee of their violation of your company’s policy.





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