Dealing with difficult employees can be a challenging task for managers and HR professionals. Whether it's negative attitudes, poor performance, or frequent conflicts, addressing these issues promptly and effectively is crucial for maintaining a productive work environment. In this blog post, we will explore key strategies and practical tips for troubleshooting difficult employees, focusing on the problem at hand, and fostering positive change within the organization.

Understanding the Challenge: What Does a Difficult Employee Look Like in the Workplace?

Difficult employees come in various forms, and it's essential to recognize the signs and behaviours that may indicate a challenging individual. They may display resistance to feedback, engage in disruptive or uncooperative behaviour, exhibit a negative attitude, or consistently underperform. Identifying these traits early on allows for proactive intervention to prevent further negative impact on the team and the organization as a whole.

Focus on the Problem at Hand

When troubleshooting a difficult employee, be sure to maintain focus on the specific problem or behaviour that needs improvement. Avoid fixating on personality traits, and instead concentrate on addressing the root cause of the issue. This way you can direct your efforts towards finding practical solutions that promote positive change and growth.

Tips and Steps to Improve the Situation

1. Provide Clear Instructions and Outline Expectations

One common challenge in addressing difficult employees is miscommunication or ambiguity. Ensure that employees have a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations from the beginning. Clearly communicate objectives, deadlines, and quality standards to minimize confusion and frustration, setting the foundation for success.

2. Focus on the Root of the Issue

Addressing the root cause of a difficult employee's behaviour is crucial for achieving long-term improvement. Look beyond surface-level behaviours and delve into underlying factors such as job fit, workload, personal circumstances, or training gaps. By understanding the underlying causes, you can implement targeted solutions that address the specific challenges faced by the employee.

3. Offer Positive and Constructive Feedback

When offering feedback, maintain a balanced approach by highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement. Constructive feedback should be specific, actionable, and focused on behaviours rather than personal traits. Recognize achievements and progress to motivate and encourage growth.

4. Provide Clear Instructions to Avoid Confusion and Frustration

Difficult employees may struggle with following instructions or understanding expectations. To alleviate these challenges, provide clear and concise instructions in written or verbal form. Break down complex tasks into manageable steps, and offer additional support or training when necessary. By providing clear instructions, you minimize confusion and frustration, enabling the employee to perform more effectively.

5. Outline Expectations at the Start

Clearly communicate performance standards, behavioural expectations, and company values. Create a supportive environment where employees understand what is expected of them and how their performance will be evaluated. This clarity empowers employees to align their behavior and performance with organizational goals.

6. Be Proactive and Not Reactive

Taking a proactive approach to managing difficult employees can prevent issues from escalating and negatively impacting the work environment. Regularly check in with employees to address concerns, provide support, and identify potential challenges before they become more significant. Foster an environment of open communication, trust, and continuous improvement.

As you navigate through the process of troubleshooting a difficult employee, keep in mind the "Golden Rule" versus the "Platinum Rule" in your approach. While the Golden Rule suggests treating others as you would like to be treated, the Platinum Rule takes it a step further by treating others as they would like to be treated. Understanding personality traits, learning styles, and motivational factors can greatly influence how you interact with and coach the employee.

By considering the individual's unique preferences and needs, you can tailor your communication, coaching style, and support to best resonate with them. For instance, some employees may prefer direct and assertive communication, while others may respond better to a more collaborative and supportive approach. This personalized approach demonstrates your commitment to their success and fosters a more effective and productive relationship.

Remember, troubleshooting a difficult employee is not about assigning blame or passing judgment. It is an opportunity to understand and address the underlying challenges, provide necessary support, and guide the employee towards positive change. By adopting a problem-solving mindset and focusing on solutions, you can create a workplace environment that promotes growth, collaboration, and success.

In conclusion, troubleshooting a difficult employee requires patience, empathy, and a commitment to fostering a positive work environment. Embrace the opportunity to support the employee's development, enhance team dynamics, and drive overall success. Together, we can create workplaces where everyone can thrive and contribute their best work.

Hiring the right candidate for a job is critical to the success of any organization. However, the process of identifying the right fit can be difficult, time-consuming, and prone to human bias. One way to streamline the process and reduce costs is through job profiling, or benchmarking. In this article, we'll explore what benchmarking is, why it's useful, and how McQuaig can help organizations define the ideal characteristics required for a specific role.

What is Benchmarking?

Benchmarking is the process of creating a standard for measuring performance in a specific role within an organization. It is essential in the hiring process because it helps organizations define the ideal characteristics required for a specific role, which in turn helps ensure they hire the right people to perform duties and achieve organizational goals.

Defining Ideal Characteristics for a Specific Role

Creating a benchmark involves identifying the key knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies required for an employee to be successful in a specific role. At McQuaig, we categorize these requirements into three levels. Level 1 covers superficial attributes such as appearance, mannerisms, expressiveness, and presence. While some of these qualities might be important for certain roles, they offer low ability to predict on-the-job performance. Level 2 covers knowledge, acquired skills, training, experience, and education. While more predictive than Level 1, this information can usually be learned from a résumé and skills can often be trained. Level 3 covers innate behavior patterns such as attitude, motivation, character, aptitude, and temperament. These qualities cannot be trained and are the most predictive of on-the-job success. At McQuaig, we look at Level 3 in terms of ability, character, and temperament, and our solution helps benchmark those qualities and measure candidates against that benchmark.

Creating a benchmark should start with a job analysis, defining the Level 1, 2, and 3 qualities required for success in any given role. This should build a foundation for a benchmark that is customized to the demands of the role. Level 3 qualities can sometimes be hard to define or put into words. They are often simply referred to as “fit”, and hiring managers have a loose idea of what that means. At McQuaig, we know that ability, character, and temperament are three of the most important qualities that correlate to success on the job. We help our customers establish a temperament benchmark that defines the behavioural requirements for the role. We also offer support to our clients to help them measure a person’s innate ability and character. A strong benchmark that focuses on the qualities that are truly predictive of on the job success leads to better hiring decisions, ensuring that organizations select the most qualified candidates for each role and build a strong, effective workforce.

Using Benchmarks in Hiring

Once the benchmark is defined, hiring managers can use it to assess the fit of candidates for the role. A benchmarking tool can be used to objectively compare candidates and reduce bias. Having a benchmark in place will lead to more accurate hires. McQuaig's benchmarking system is designed to minimize intuitive decision-making, which tends to be biased and inaccurate when selecting candidates. The system provides insight on who is going to succeed in a job and how they will fit into the role.

Revisiting the Benchmark

It's important to revisit benchmarks on an ongoing basis and update them. Roles and responsibilities are ever-evolving, which needs to be captured in iterations of the benchmark. This ensures that the benchmark remains an accurate representation of the ideal characteristics required for success in the role. What organizations gain from this process is a better understanding of existing roles, requirements, and top performers. They can revisit and revamp roles within the organization, reframe how they budget and think about hiring costs, and consider the time and tools used to create benchmarks, an investment that will reduce the cost of turnover in the long run.

The Cost of a Bad Hire

Making a bad hire can be costly for organizations. A bad hire not only affects the productivity and morale of the team but can also result in financial losses for the organization. The cost of a bad hire includes expenses related to recruitment, training, and severance pay. Additionally, a bad hire can damage the organization's reputation and lead to lost opportunities.

When you factor in recruitment, training, and lost productivity, the cost of a bad hire can be up to five times the employee's annual salary. Moreover, the cost of a bad hire can extend beyond monetary losses. It can also lead to decreased employee morale, lower team productivity, and negative impact on customer satisfaction.

Overall, benchmarking is an essential tool for companies looking to improve their hiring process. By defining the ideal characteristics required for a specific role, companies can ensure that they are selecting the most qualified candidates for each role, leading to reduced turnover, improved productivity, and a more effective workforce overall. Regularly revisiting and updating benchmarks ensures that they remain accurate and effective over time. By using McQuaig's benchmarking system, companies can streamline their benchmarking process and ensure that they are making informed and objective hiring decisions that will lead to better hires and reduced costs.

Interviews are a crucial part of the hiring process, as they allow companies to get to know potential candidates and determine whether they would be a good fit for the role. However, a bad interview can lead to hiring the wrong person, which can be a costly mistake for companies. Interviewers must be well-prepared and have the right mindset to conduct successful interviews. In this blog, we will share 10 tips for interviewers to have a more successful interview, based on the insights from McQuaig's research.

Importance of a Good Interview

A bad interview can result in hiring the wrong person for the job, which can be costly for the company in terms of time, money, and resources. On the other hand, a good interview can help identify the right candidate for the job, who will be a good fit for the company culture and contribute to the company's success. McQuaig's research shows that a clear path to reaching the right kind of interview is set by being well-prepared and using a structured interview approach.

10 Tips for a More Successful Interview

1- Be Prepared

Interviewers should be well prepared for the interview, which includes reviewing the candidate's resume, cover letter, online presence, and website if they have one. Preparing a list of questions to help assess the candidate's skills and qualifications will also be beneficial.

2- Don't Rely on Instinct or Chance

Relying solely on instincts or chance when conducting an interview can lead to biased decisions and result in hiring the wrong candidate. It is important for interviewers to use a structured, consistent, and objective interview approach. This involves using a set of predetermined questions and evaluating each candidate's responses based on a standard set of criteria. By doing so, interviewers can better compare candidates and make more informed hiring decisions. The structured interview approach also helps ensure that all candidates are given equal opportunities to showcase their skills and qualifications.

3- Choose the Right Questions

Interviewers should choose questions that are relevant to the role and will help assess the candidate's skills, qualifications, and fit for the company culture. Here are ten examples to consider:

  1. Can you tell me something about yourself that is not on your resume?
  2. What do you love best about your current job?
  3. What would your family say is a weakness for you?
  4. Tell me about a time you were faced with a conflict at work and how you overcame it.
  5. How do you like to be managed?
  6. Which accomplishment in your professional life are you most proud of?
  7. How would your coworkers describe you if they could only use three words?
  8. What’s the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year and how did you make it?
  9. Tell me about a time you had too many tasks and not enough resources. What did you do?
  10. Describe your last long-term project and how you ensured it stayed on track.

While these example questions can be helpful in guiding interviewers toward relevant and meaningful topics, it's important to remember that they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Interviewers should take guidance from these examples but also make an effort to formulate their questions tailored to the specific role and culture within the company they are interviewing for. This helps ensure that the questions are relevant and meaningful to the candidate and provide a clearer picture of their experience, skills, and personality. Additionally, formulating their own questions allows interviewers to showcase their company's unique values and priorities, giving candidates a better idea of what they can expect if hired. By taking the time to develop their own questions, interviewers can conduct a more effective and insightful interview that ultimately leads to better hiring decisions.

4- Welcome the Candidate

Creating a welcoming atmosphere for the candidate helps them feel more comfortable and open during the interview process. Interviewers can do this by greeting candidates warmly, offering them a drink or a place to sit, and engaging in small talk to help put them at ease. Make sure the interview room is comfortable and well-lit. By creating a positive and inviting atmosphere, interviewers can help candidates feel more relaxed and more likely to share information about themselves, which can ultimately lead to a more successful interview.

5- Ask Behavioural Interview Questions

Behavioural interview questions are effective in assessing a candidate's past behaviour and how they handled specific situations. By using open-ended questions, interviewers can prompt candidates to provide detailed responses that reveal their thought processes and problem-solving skills. These questions can also help to predict how the candidate may perform in similar situations in the future. When formulating behavioral interview questions, it's essential to focus on the specific skills and traits required for the role and to ask questions that directly relate to those skills and traits.

6- Use a Structured Interview Approach

A structured interview approach leads interviewers to ask the same questions of each candidate, making it easier to compare their answers. This approach involves having a set list of questions presented in the same order to each candidate. The interviewer can also score each answer on a predetermined scale, which can help in evaluating the candidate. This helps eliminate any biases and ensures that each candidate is assessed fairly.

7- Let the Candidate Speak

Interviewers should give the candidate ample time to speak during the interview. Interrupting the candidate or not allowing them to fully answer questions can lead to missed opportunities for valuable information. Encourage them to elaborate on their answers and ask follow-up questions to gain a better understanding of their experiences and skills.

8- Gain Peer Insight

Interviewers should involve their peers in the interview process. This can include inviting team members or managers to participate in the interview or to review the candidate's resume and provide feedback. This can help reduce biases and provide additional perspectives on the candidate's fit for the role.

9- Use Assessments to Help You Interview

Assessments such as the McQuaig Job Survey, the McQuaig Word Survey, and the McQuaig Mental Agility Test can provide additional insight into a candidate's personality, work style, and cognitive abilities. These assessments can be used to complement the interview process and provide more objective data for decision making.

10- Follow Up

Following up with candidates after the interview helps build relationships and show that the company values the candidate's time and effort. This may include sending a thank-you email or note, providing feedback on the interview process, or updating the candidate on the hiring process timeline.

How McQuaig's Services Can Help Even Further

When it comes to hiring, it's crucial to find the right fit for a role. McQuaig offers a range of assessments that provide valuable insights into a candidate's personality, work style, vocabulary, communication style, and cognitive abilities. These assessments can complement the interview process and provide additional objective data for decision making.

By using McQuaig, interviewers can gain a competitive edge in the hiring process. Our assessments help identify the strengths and weaknesses of candidates, which can be used to develop teams that are better aligned and more productive. Furthermore, our assessments can help mitigate the risk of making a bad hire and save companies the time and resources that come with hiring the wrong candidate.

Conducting successful interviews is an integral part of finding the right candidate for a role. Interviewers who use McQuaig and follow the 10 tips outlined in this article can conduct more successful interviews and ultimately hire the best candidate for the job. By taking the time to properly prepare for and conduct interviews, companies can improve the quality of their hires and build more productive teams.

At McQuaig, we know that people are the most valuable asset of any organization. That is why it is our mission to help our customers make better people decisions. We help our customers hire, retain, and develop their employees, and because we know how important the people decisions are that we help our customer make every day, we take our job very seriously. McQuaig operates under a set of beliefs that we apply to the use of our products and that guide every product decision that we make.

We Believe That Defining the Roles Within Organizations is Foundational to All Talent Management Activities

Every organization is unique, every team is unique, and every role is unique. If you’re looking to fill a role, you need to find someone that aligns to your special uniqueness. If you’ve already got that person, you need to play to their uniqueness and help them grow, develop, and thrive within your organization.

Defining each role within an organization is the foundation to success in any talent management activity. Most organizations do a great job of defining the training, skills, experience, and credentials required for different roles, but they fall short when it comes to defining the things that really matter. Rarely does an employee succeed (or fail) based on training and skill. Rather we tend to chalk success or failure up to the elusive “fit” or so called “soft skills”. At McQuaig, we don’t think fit is all that elusive. It just tends to be a bit more difficult for many managers to put into words and to assess. “Fit” comes down to qualities like attitude, motivation, persistence and determination, character, aptitude and intelligence, and temperament. These are the qualities that have the highest level of impact on performance.

At McQuaig, we help our customers build strong benchmarks that take all of these factors into consideration, and we equip them with assessments and other tools to assess these qualities in candidates and employees alike. Armed with rich information relating to fit, our clients are able to confirm alignment and explore gaps in the interview process and develop current employees accordingly.

We Believe That Better Interviews Result in Better Hires

Although intuition may tell many managers that hiring based on “gut decisions” has led them to successful hires, the actual data tells a completely different story. The traditional, unstructured interview is only slightly more effective than flipping a coin to make a hiring decision. Making the wrong hiring decision isn’t only potentially very expensive, it can also have catastrophic consequences for your team and your company. That is why at McQuaig, we strive to empower hiring managers to conduct better interviews.

Better interviews start with strong benchmarks (see our first belief). We know that hiring managers are not always trained on how to conduct an effective interview. And that is why we’ve developed comprehensive and actionable tools and content to support the interview process.

We Believe That Strong Onboarding Leads to More Successful Employees

New employees usually make the decision to stay with or leave a new organization within their first 90 days. While they may well stay beyond that 90-day window, the decision has been made and it requires considerable more effort to change a mind than to get it right in the first place. Even the most qualified candidate may struggle to perform well in a new role without proper training and support. Inadequate onboarding can lead to frustration, confusion, decreased productivity, and in many cases, ultimately the departure of the employee.

Most people are all familiar with the Golden Rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated. At McQuaig, we prefer the Platinum Rule for onboarding: Treat others how they want to be treated. We encourage our clients to consider a new employee’s personality, learning style and preferences when it comes to working with others and incorporate all of that into onboarding plan. Our products deliver deep insights into these areas so that managers will be prepared to provide the right support and training to get their new hire up to speed and performing well quickly.

We Believe That Self Awareness Is the Biggest Contributing Factor to Individual Success

It is rare that one achieves sustained success without a healthy amount of self awareness. At McQuaig we believe that supporting all employees through their journey towards greater self awareness creates happier, more engaged, and more productive employees. Our founder, Jack McQuaig, a world renowned industrial and organizational psychologist said that “Developing yourself is a game of inches – major breakthroughs are almost always a result of many small steps that progressively lead you towards your goals.” This is why McQuaig has developed assessments and content to deliver candid personal feedback that can be transformed into meaningful action plans for development. We know that managers play a crucial role in employee development, and we strive to help people leaders identify high performing and high potential (there is a difference) employees and to structure and support effective development plans.

With strong benchmarks and self aware, committed employees, leaders can align employee skills, abilities and temperaments to future roles and work to train and develop employees accordingly.

We Believe That Understanding Others is Key to Maximizing Team Effectiveness

Our belief at McQuaig is that diversity drives successful groups and organizations. When teams are diverse, each member’s unique approach and contribution can have measurable influence on the success of the whole team. When different styles, temperaments and view points come together though, there is also potential for conflict. This brings us back to the platinum rule. We strive to deliver insight to teams that allows them to understand each member’s preferences, strengths, blind spots, motivators and working styles. By doing this, teams can effectively apply the platinum rule and maximize their effectiveness as a collective.  

We know that if we continue to be guided by these beliefs, we can make the lives of our customers easier. Our solutions will always be accessible and understandable with minimal implementation burden. Our 5 guiding beliefs are at the heart of every decision we make at McQuaig. We strive to empower customers to make better people decisions through our scientifically validated and reliable assessments and methodologies. Our world class Customer Success team seamlessly guides customers through onboarding and implementation, and we’re always here to support our customers when they need it.

Contact us today if you would like to learn more about how McQuaig can help your organization make better people decisions!