How to Handle Employees Who Challenge Your Leadership


What do you do when an employee undermines your leadership?

This question is a conundrum every manager will face in their career, and how you navigate it is crucial to the success of your company.

Mastering leadership is the cornerstone of every thriving business. However, even the most experienced leaders can face difficulties in the form of challenging employees. It can be especially tough when an employee intentionally undermines your leadership, negatively affecting team morale and productivity. At Bahar Consulting, we specialize in helping small businesses grow, including leadership and management training. Our extensive experience has compiled some insights into managing difficult employees who challenge your leadership.

Understanding the Underminer

Before diving into solutions, it’s crucial to understand the motivations behind undermining behaviors. Often, these employees may feel overlooked, threatened, or insecure. Their actions might stem from personal grievances, professional jealousy, or resistance to change. Recognizing these underlying reasons can be the first step in addressing the issue.

1. Open Communication

Initiate a one-on-one conversation with the employee in question. Use this opportunity to:

  • Address observed behaviors without being confrontational.
  • Listen actively to their concerns or grievances.
  • Clarify your expectations and the company’s vision.

For instance, while working with a small business, we encountered an employee who consistently challenged decisions in team meetings. Upon discussing privately, it was revealed that he felt his contributions were undervalued. We transformed a potential adversary into a valuable ally by addressing his concerns and recognizing his efforts.

2. Set Clear Boundaries

Define what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Ensure that all team members, not just the problematic employee, know these boundaries. Clear boundaries set the stage for accountability and ensure everyone is on the same page.

3. Provide Constructive Feedback

Instead of reprimanding the employee, offer constructive feedback. Highlight the negative impact of their actions on the team and the organization. Encourage them to channel their energies positively by taking on more responsibilities or engaging in team-building activities.

4. Strengthen Team Dynamics

Engage in team-building exercises to foster a sense of unity and camaraderie. Positive team dynamics can help isolate undermining behaviors and promote a more collaborative work environment. At Bahar Consulting, we’ve seen firsthand how leadership training can transform team dynamics, making it easier to manage difficult employees.

5. Consider Professional Development

Sometimes, the best way to manage a difficult employee is to help them grow. Consider offering them opportunities for professional development, such as sales training or leadership courses. Professional training addresses potential skill gaps and demonstrates your investment in their success.

6. Document and Take Action

If all else fails, it’s essential to document instances of undermining behavior. Documentation serves as evidence should there be a need for disciplinary action or even termination. Remember, while it’s crucial to be empathetic, it’s equally important to prioritize the well-being of the team and the organization.

In Conclusion

Managing difficult employees, especially those who undermine leadership, can be challenging. However, with the right strategies in place, it’s possible to turn potential disruptions into opportunities for growth. At Bahar Consulting, we’re committed to helping businesses navigate these challenges, ensuring that leadership remains secure and teams continue to thrive.

Are you seeking expert advice on small business growth strategies, sales, or leadership training? Reach out to us at Bahar Consulting. Let’s transform challenges into opportunities together.

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