As a manager, you may be faced with certain employees who positively contribute in many ways, but are still difficult to work with. This is can lead to one of the more frustrating aspects of the job, where you want to keep someone on the team, but can’t quite figure out how to tweak some of their habits. Here are five common employee archetypes you may run into and how best to change their way of thinking. ​


The Challenge: Some employees just can’t seem to focus. When the work is in their wheelhouse they do great, but for other tasks you may catch them surfing the internet, continually hitting the coffee maker or water cooler or they may just stare into space. You want to get the same result every time, but it is consistently hit or miss. 

The Solution: This may come down to figuring out how best to play to someone’s strengths. They may be distracted because they are not being given enough tasks that they excel at. While it’s true that every employee should expect a certain amount of work they don’t enjoy, sit down with the employee and ask them for an honest assessment on what stimulates them and what feels more like busywork. If you can craft a better division of labor, then you may end up seeing an increase in everyone’s output.


The Challenge: Independence can often be a great attribute in the workplace. Not having to look over someone’s shoulder every five minutes can allow you to focus your energy on other tasks. But their go-it-alone attitude makes them ill-fitted for an office environment. They’ll do anything to avoid team-building exercises. They are practically ghosts during brainstorming sessions and you feel like they’re holding back.

The Solution:If someone is truly uncomfortable in team situations, forcing them to participate will only push them further into their shell. But you also need to make sure that they prefer independence and aren’t just unhappy with the job. If they truly feel best going it alone, figure out the easiest ways for them to express their ideas without putting them in uncomfortable positions. Seek more one-on-one experiences and try to allow them enough space to deliver the kind of results you’re looking for.


The Challenge: An employee that is cordial one moment and ill-tempered the next can be incredibly challenging for managers and co-workers. No one should be made to walk on eggshells around others while they’re trying to do their job, but there are those who may get too angry too easily.​

The Solution: This is another situation where it’s best to figure out first that the employee is not having issues with the job or anything at home. If it just happens to be their personality, then being kind but direct is the best action. Most people don’t realize when they are making others uncomfortable and with an honest explanation they will usually strive to be more conscious of how they treat others. What is most important is to make sure they are made aware, in case it happens again in the future.


The Challenge:It seems that no matter what time of day, and no matter what the topic, there is that employee who has to walk over to someone’s desk and start chatting. It may not matter if the co-worker is ankle-deep in their own work—the gabbing goes on and on. The conversations may be innocuous, and sometimes even interesting, but they are clearly becoming a disruption.

​​The Solution:While the most effective solution is to speak with the person directly, this can be incredibly difficult. So instead it may be best to speak to everyone, making sure that a culture of “work before chatting” is made explicit. This will not only be an implicit request to those who are talking too much, but it will also be an effective excuse for other employees when they want to end a conversation and get back to work.


The Challenge: How do you manage the unmanageable? There are those who, despite their great work, have a severe problem with authority. They may be an ideal employee in many regards, but are clearly disrespectful when it comes to those they report to. It can make you angry, self-conscious and even harm your own output.

The Solution: This is the kind of talk no one wants to have, but an employee that refuses to listen must be given very explicit instructions on the hierarchy of the office. Explaining to them that you need to consider your own managers and what they expect from you is a good way to help them understand where you’re coming from. A side benefit to this is for many of these employees, a strong, direct discussion is the exact kind of feedback that will be the most effective. ​