Ask The Experts

Getting to the bottom of difficult employees


I have an unusual employee who is much of a loner, as he does not mix around nor speak much at meetings.

What is even more unusual is that when he is asked of his view, he will respond by either intentionally making statements that will hurt people, or making some silly and un-thoughtful remark to make others angry.

Due to this, he is considered a ‘pain’ by many in the workplace. I have spoken to him many times about his behaviour, but he remains indifferent.

Personality aside, he is very good at his job. Hence, there is no justification to take any official action against him. What I want to know is, why does he behave like this? What can we do to change him for the better?


The bottom line of life is that we are all seeking some kind of motivation and recognition in whatever we do.

Motivation refers to the internal and external factors that stimulate the desire and energy in us to be continuously interested and committed to what we do.

Recognition, on the other hand, is the desire to be recognised for something that we have done, which comes in the form of words of praise and/or a tangible reward. This staff of yours seems to be deprived of these.

He is, therefore, feeling angry, frustrated, or even both. And as he cannot get hold of recognition or motivation, he seeks them through negative ways that will get him noticed like what you have just described.

In order to make him open up to you about his behaviour, you will need to first make sure that he is at ease with you. If he is not comfortable with you, you will only face a ‘silent wall’ when communicating with him.

Once you are able to establish this level of comfort, you will likely get the truth of what really is troubling him. Bear in mind that this could be a personal issue.

Assure him that you are here to help him, and make sure you mean it. You may be able to win his trust this way.

If you feel that you are unable to do this due to time constraints or whatever reason, then try to get someone to carry it out for you. You’ll need to exercise patience and tolerance when giving him a listening ear.

It may seem that nothing is coming out of your efforts at first, but in reality, he may be close to baring it all. All the best to you.

Powerful questions you can ask yourself:

• How important is this staff of whom you are prepared to be compassionate and understanding?

• What do you think could be the possible causes for his strange behaviour?

• What are you prepared to do to help him?

• What will make him trust you?

Article by Dr Michael Heah, an ICF Master Certified Coach with