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Difficult employees can bring a whole team down. Here’s how to effectively manage them.

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In the luxury-brand world, we’re often asked to find candidates who are capable of leading difficult teams or big-book sales associates.

Top-producing team members can be extremely valuable assets, but how do you support them while maintaining the team as a whole? The key is communication: Are you clear in your expectations of the team, and do you have clear guidelines on how to achieve them?

Too often, we see managers clearly picking favorites or allowing top producers to behave in any way they want. It’s a slippery slope that discourages other associates from performing at their best, as they feel the odds are stacked against them.

Put simply, the carrot works better than the stick. By providing rewards and acknowledging good behavior, you’re better able to ensure good behavior overall. Bonuses and commissions are always great motivators, but other privileges also hold a lot of value—better hours, days off, etc. These should be earned, not given—by handing out perks to solve a top producer’s issues, other team members can easily feel animosity.

Consider creating other perks that are based on hitting certain targets. Team members are equally able to achieve these rewards, but you need to communicate how they can do so.


The carrot works better than the stick.


It’s also important to compare your top producers with those of the entire company—not just the ones in your store or region. Being in the top five of your company is meaningful, but the top producer of an underperforming store or region is not necessarily so. Perspective will keep their ego in check and give you a reality check as well.

As a manager, you also need to listen. Are your top performers difficult people, or are they frustrated because of a lack of support? These employees often have strong personalities, and past experiences may have taught them that success comes from commanding attention. If you take the time to understand their point of view, you can work together to create a successful environment.

After you know where they’re coming from, make them part of the solution. Employees respond best when they have a stake in the situation, so lay out a clear roadmap with goals along the way.

It can be easy to forget that good numbers don’t make up for bad behavior, but by simply communicating and creating a plan with difficult employees, you can keep top performers and team members alike happy. If an employee is truly engaging in toxic behavior, you may need to end the working relationship. You may lose money, but you never want to risk company morale and overall productivity for one person.

To sum it all up, listen to your team to see where the problems truly lie. If you have any questions or would like more information, feel free to reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Rob Bowerman is President and Founder of The Bowerman Group- a leading executive search firm for luxury brands in the US and Canada. Rob is also President of The Pinnacle Society, the premier consortium of industry-leading recruiters in North America.

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