Managing a Defiant Employee

Some of the hardest employees to manage are people who are consistently oppositional. They might actively debate or ignore feedback, refuse to follow instructions, or create a constant stream of negative comments. There are three tactics you can try if you’re managing a defiant employee. First, consider adjusting their job responsibilities to make better use of their strengths. If they have deep technical expertise but lack management skills, for example, try putting them into a subject-matter-expert role. A second option is to temporarily overlook their negative style while they adjust to any new circumstances. Some employees become oppositional when they feel insecure in a new role or after a significant change in their responsibilities. Work on stylistic problems once they’ve settled in and feel more familiar with the new expectations. Lastly, consider whether their resistance is appropriate. Perhaps they are pointing out process changes that need to be made or alerting you to problems that no one else is willing to raise. Don’t outright dismiss their negative behavior, but also don’t let it go on too long. If none of these tactics work, it might be time for the person to move on.

This tip is adapted from “How to Manage a Stubborn, Defensive, or Defiant Employee,” by Liz Kislik


Categories: Management and Career Tips

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