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Managing Difficult Employees in the New Norm

We have heard from countless clients, peers, and friends in the industry this past year about the challenges they are facing on theirs teams coming out of this pandemic and convening back in the workplace.

We are generally facing, and participating in, a workforce with a completely new sets of norms and expectations. On both sides as employees and as managers. The frustrations have been rampant and often managers are caught in the middle – we need to lead, organize, and motivate our team while meeting the expectations of our leadership that may be feeling pressure from down years of fundraising activity.

There are no easy solutions. There is no right or wrong way to manage this complex re-entry process. We can’t tell you who is doing it the best, or the worst, or who wins blue ribbons for their crisis management. But one thing we do know to be true at this moment in time is that personal accountability and consistent leadership is critical.

Some of us are facing new employee dynamics – the likes of which we haven’t encountered before. Between a booming job market, individuals feeling personally and professionally empowered following the events of 2020 and 2021 (both positively and negatively), and perhaps lessened social connections in the workplace, we seem to be facing new team dynamics that can be detrimental to moving forward in healthy and positive manners. This may manifest as:

  • demotivated staff members

  • reticence to coming physically back into work

  • comfort in saying “no” or pushing boundaries

  • lackluster professional performance

  • unwillingness to integrate into the broader team

  • putting off projects or initiatives personally deemed less important, tedious, or less rewarding

If you are facing any of these issues (or others) with your team members, or your peers, know that you are absolutely not alone. The key is how we manage, lead, and consistently set expectations. This is the harder side of management. This is where the rubber hits the road. Letting poor behavior slide, accepting baseline performance, tolerating pushback (big or small) only undermines both you and the organization. It sets a poor example for the team members who are in fact meeting expectations and producing top notch work. While we always want to lead with empathy and understanding, at the end of day, it is your responsibility to deliver individual and team results that benefit your organization. You are on the line. Your organization is on the line. No matter if a poor performing staff member is a director or an admin – everyone contributes to our success and everyone pays the price when things falter.

All this to say, step up. Lead. Lead by example. Set expectations. Communicate. Over-communicate. Document poor performance. Involve HR. Coach. SET ACCOUNTABILITY STANDARDS. Don’t let things slide, move problems, or worse yet, question yourself. You will not hurt your organizational reputation if staff turn over. Leadership won’t question your abilities. Human Resources is not going to wonder what the heck is going on in your team. If done with consistency, transparency, respect, and documentation, you are doing what is best for you and your team.

Share below some of the challenges you have encountered in your teams and your best ideas for managing – we are always up for resourcing great management tips and tricks!


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