How to manage high maintenance employees

Every workplace has encountered the so-called high maintenance employees. These are individuals who are problematic and hard to manage in the workforce. They are often the focus of the management as they require much more attention than all the other employees.

They may be high performers or low performers, but regardless of this, they often take the bulk of the manager’s time. In most cases though, they tend to be weak and poor performers. If you are facing the problem of managing high maintenance employees, here are some ten tips that you could utilize.

  1. Be clear

One essential aspect of management of any workforce is being clear on what you expect from them, especially relating to the quality of work. You should set clear standards of work and clear guidelines on how to perform tasks. It’s not sufficient to tell your employees to do something, but you should also show them how it’s done.

As a manager, you should set the bar for what’s considered acceptable and what’s not. Acknowledge and appreciate their efforts and contributions to the achievement of the organization’s objectives. But even as you do this, make it clear that certain boundaries should be respected. Such may include time spent on unproductive activities such as personal conflicts, squabbles amongst the team members, unnecessary drama and the likes.

  1. Set performance expectations

This is a useful management tool for employees who are high maintenance. An organization should use resources optimally and efficiently, so it makes practical sense to put parameters that would foster self-management. When a high maintenance employee knows the performance expectations that he/she has been bestowed, he/she may feel the heat and up their game to meet these expectations. Some performance measures may include submitting work on time, delivering high-quality work, meeting operational targets, etc.

When these performance expectations are set to clear, the cases of gossiping, conflicts, and malingering will reduce since the employee will be conscious of the need to meet the performance expectations or else face the prospect of losing the job.

  1. Tailor interactions on individual basis

Leadership experts have time and again endorsed that the best managers are those who tailor their interactions with employees on an individual basis. They are aware that every employee is different and each high maintenance employee has specific needs that have to be addressed. There are those employees who need a manager that’s hands-on when managing their work. They perform at their best when they can see that their boss is around and actively taking part in the tasks being carried out.

On the other hand, some high maintenance employees prefer the boss to be away. They need them to be laid back so that they can perform optimally. A manager who is hands-on may rub his/her employees the wrong way, and they may actually feel as if they are being micro-managed. Therefore, be a shrewd manager and identify the personal needs of each employee first and perform your oversight functions based on their needs.

  1. Motivate them

Some employees are high maintenance merely because they are not motivated. They may view work as an unnecessary evil rather than an opportunity to develop themselves both at the individual and professional level. This may lead to reduced productivity, negative attitudes, below average performance, and low morale. As a manager, you should be the source of motivation for your employees.

Start by looking at each of the supposed high maintenance employees and try to identify what motivates them – even when it may seem weird. Once you recognize these points of motivation, capitalize on them to keep them motivated all through their work schedules. The benefits will be immense, ranging from high productivity and increased worker morale.

  1. Instill self-awareness

An excellent approach to managing high maintenance employees is bringing them to the realization of who they are. You should be as straightforward as possible. Identify the behaviors that they exhibit and point it out to them. Tell them why their conduct is inappropriate for the workplace. Be a caring manager by telling them how they should act and what they should say in specific settings. Also, tell them what’s not appropriate and what to do when they are on the verge of exhibiting their high maintenance behavior. In this way, you will make them achieve self-awareness, which is a huge stepping stone to correct their undesirable behaviors or characters.

  1. Peer management

We know that you would like to exercise your managerial powers. But sometimes, it’s not beneficial, especially when dealing with high maintenance employees. At times, it’s much better to let employees manage themselves. There is always an assumption that employees respond more readily and positively when team members manage them as opposed to top administration officials. They feel that their team members understand them better than the chief manager. You can use this assumption in managing those employees that tend to be high maintenance. It has some measure of effectiveness.

  1. Ensure clear lines of communication

Communication is essential in any organization. In fact, the success of an organization’s activities depends on how they communicate.

Communication is a vital factor in employee management. It is the means by which instructions and commands are given. It is also medium through which work appraisal is done. A clear line of communication should always be the focus of managers. It is how they will help their employees understand their position and role in the organization. It shows them the direction and path that they will take. Poor communication mostly triggers some high maintenance behaviors. Thus you should strive to improve your communication. EduBirdies can be a great place to start to tweak your communication skills for the better.

  1. Distance yourself

Your role as a manager is quite simple. You are to set rules, procedures, and resources for the employees. Simply, you are to provide the right environment for them to work. When you are doing this effectively and still some employees exhibit high dependency tendencies, then you should respectfully distance yourself from them. You already played your part by providing an enabling environment. The rest is theirs to play. Sometimes, distancing yourself is the best approach as it gives them an opportunity to grow and discover their footing.

  1. Exercise foresight

By keenly observing the high maintenance employees, you will always discover that there is something ulterior that they are seeking. It may be attention, recognition, empathy, respect or even responsibility. As a business person, you should look keenly at their behaviors and exercise some foresight. For example, if a young employee always pesters you to promote them to assume the position of department head, use your foresight effectively. Such an employee may not just be throwing tantrums but is for sure seeking responsibility. Once you’ve established their ulterior motives, see how best you can address them so that all parties have a better outcome.

  1. Hire and fire

When you feel that you’ve had enough of it, then don’t hesitate to fire and hire employees. Most managers, business people, and entrepreneurs tend to be too nice holding on to false hopes of changing high maintenance employees. Well, being nice doesn’t always solve problems. Give such employees an opportunity to exercise their high maintenance behavior elsewhere.


It’s always a hard experience when dealing with high maintenance employees. But the ten tips highlighted above can help you manage them effectively. Apply them separately or collectively as you strive to manage your workforce in a better way. As you apply them, remember that high-performance employees are 91% more valuable than non-high performing ones such as those who are high maintenance.

Jake Lester is an experienced essay writer that is fond of sharing his mind about various spheres of life. The most recurring themes he covers are education, writing and marketing. He has his own writing style and this is why he is appreciated by readers. You may look through Facebook, Twitter & Google+.