Managing difficult employees is never easy.  It can appear daunting and time consuming as there is so much to consider:-

  1. How to broach the issue – is there a best time of day?
  2. Differing personalities – How should you approach the individual? Are they confrontational, quiet, emotional?
  3. How will they react? Will they be angry? What if they cry? What if they deny it? What if they leave?
  4. Employment legislation – how do I avoid saying the wrong thing?
  5. Is there really an issue? – am I (or other employees) overreacting?Starting the Conversation about Health, Legal, Financial and End

It is very easy to see why some Managers take the ‘ostrich’ approach and bury their head in the sand, however the problem rarely goes away and once the lines of communication break down and listening stops, I can guarantee you that the problem WILL spiral out of control

So how can you manage difficult employees?

A good starting place is the planning and preparation stage. You have a difficult employee and you are not sure about what to do.  Ask yourself questions such as those above and prepare an agenda for the meeting.

As the saying goes –  ‘failure to plan is planning to fail’  and its true.  A properly planned conversation will allow you to explore the following:-

  • Identify the problem –
    • Is it behavioural?
    • Have you got any examples?
    • What do you want the outcome to be?
    • Is there a problem?
  • Process
    • It is vital that you have up to date policies and processes to allow you to manage this fairly, objectively and consistently;
    • Ensure that you follow these processes.
  • Meeting
    • Ensure that the meeting is held in a private office so that the discussion is not overheard;
    • Allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to conduct the meeting;
    • Follow your pre-prepared agenda and take notes;
    • Communicate and listen -sometimes when an employee is difficult we stop paying attention to what is going on. Ensure that you maintain control by listening first;
    • Set clear expectations – Employees need to clearly understand what your expectations of them are, both from a behavioural perspective (conduct) as well as from a ‘task’ basis (capability)
  • Review
    • Provide feedback – Once you have set your expectations it is important to review performance against these on a regular basis and provide constructive feedback. Make it clear what the consequences are should there be no improvements;
    • Record – Make a record of what has been agreed and dates for review

Employees are critical to your business, you need calm professional employees who are focusing wholly on looking after children.  Negative behaviour radiating from difficult disgruntled employees WILL affect the children in a negative way and could potentially cause additional problems with unhappy parents.

The benefits we reap from managing difficult employees are considerable for your business.

So how can managing your difficult employees proactively truly benefit your Nursery setting?

  1. Culture

It will create a professional environment for your employees, one that is reputed to be fair and enjoyable to work in.

A ‘safer’ environment will encourage employees to discuss the little problems proactively before they escalate.

You will retain employees if they feel valued and should you need to recruit then you will attract a higher calibre of employees clambering to work for you.

  1. Happy Employees equal happy children

Your employees are key to the wellbeing of the children in your care.

Happy employees = less turnover = more time to spend on improvements = increased efficiency = great reputation

Happy children = happy parents = referrals = increased turnover – simple.

  1. Ofsted

You will be able to demonstrate that you have fair, consistent policies and procedures in place that allow you to effectively manage difficult employees. Ofsted want to see these and see that they are working.

You will be able to demonstrate the additional wins you have achieved by saving time in the long run. This all helps you to work towards the ‘outstanding’ status and then keep it!!

So in summary, managing difficult employees in your nursery setting proactively enables you to take control of the situation, provides a visually fair environment and prevents the spiral of negativity that can occur if issues are not managed in an efficient, fair and considered way.   By ‘grasping the nettle’ you will free yourself from the ‘HR shackles’ which Managers face, and offer you an increase in time to focus on your top priorities. Enabling you to provide and maintain the level of service which you aspire to achieve.

Always remember it is important to effectively plan any course of action that you are preparing to take and ensure that you are using legally compliant processes.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope you have found the above helpful in highlighting some pointers for managing difficult employees and the importance of managing employees fairly and consistently.  We would as ever be delighted to hear from you with any feedback, questions, or indeed your experience of managing HR in a Nursery setting, whether that be through outsourcing or through managing HR directly.

Ruth Lewin


The Nursery HR People Limited

01509 833 121