Workplace Culture: 5 Ways to Handle Disrespectful Employees

For the most part, your team is great. You have created a workplace culture where your employees like to collaborate and share ideas, they’re supportive, and they’re (fairly) punctual. But there is one disrespectful employee on your team who is, well, less than stellar. What's worse is she acts that way in front of the other staff members, too. But before you lose your cool—or worse, fire her for insubordination—there are ways to deal with a disrespectful employee. Here’s how.

1. Be Available

As much as you would like, you can’t expect the disrespectful employee to change their behavior overnight. So let her know that she can come speak to you in the future about other issues. If she believes her feelings and thoughts are being heard and validated, she may be less likely to be disrespectful in the future. However, if she continues to be rude or undermine your authority, you may have to consider suspending—or unfortunately, even firing—your employee.

2. Be Firm

Despite whatever reason(s) they may have for being a disrespectful employee, there is still no excuse to act unprofessionally in the workplace. Acknowledge what she is feeling, but do not allow her to continue with her disrespectful behavior. After all, if you allow her to treat you in that manner, you’re opening the door to having other members of your team do the same. Explain that while you understand her feelings, she cannot behave in this manner because her bad attitude affects the overall morale of the team—and you as her boss.

3. Be a Good Listener

Set some time aside to speak with your disrespectful employee privately.

Explain that you’ve noticed a change in her behavior and that you want to hear, in her own words, what the cause of it is. She may go into detail about something that happened at work, or maybe she’s frustrated because she wants to be able to work from home. By listening to her, you are allowing her to not only speak her mind but to help clarify the situation—and change her behavior.

4. Be Meticulous

Let’s say your disrespectful employee openly mocks you during an all-staff meeting. Or she blows off your emails and returns your phone calls the next day.

Take some time to note the instances when her behavior is anything but respectful. By having it all written down, you’ll have something concrete to refer to when you speak with her.

5. Be Objective

Maybe since her first day, your disrespectful employee was cranky or refused to participate. Or maybe she became withdrawn and irritable after she was turned down for a promotion. Try to assess when (and why) your employee’s behavior changed before reacting. Even though it’s hard to work with difficult people, it’s crucial to separate your own emotions from those of your employee’s so you can be as objective—and professional—as possible.

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