How should you deal with a rude employee?

News on 20 October 2018

Unfortunately, there are rude people are everywhere. This means that you may be unlucky enough to get one in your business. But it’s not the end of the world and you definitely shouldn’t lose your head over it.

What to do first?

Listen to them. Probably not what you were expecting but think about it; there could be something going on at work or at home that is causing them to behave this way. By listening to what they are saying, it will give you the chance to understand the situation. When you understand what is going on, you can improve it. Also, people tend to feel a lot happier, and stop being so difficult, when they feel like they are being listened to.

Addressing the elephant in the room

Giving someone feedback on their conduct has long been one of the topics that most managers will avoid. Burying your head in the sand won’t help with these types of situations and will generally make you feel more frustrated. You need to tackle it.

Give your employee clear, behavioural feedback, don’t just say “you’ve got a bad attitude” or “you are rude”. By saying it this way, they will instantly get defensive and see it as a personal attack. Giving feedback on someone’s behaviour should be dealt with in the same way you’d deal with feedback about their performance – GIVE EXAMPLES!! You could say “I’ve noticed that you’ve been saying negative things about your colleagues” or “I’ve noticed that you are refusing to help your colleagues when they’ve asked you for help”, then ask them for their opinion.

Write it down

Carl has a difficult employee in his team. Stacey has been really negative, and this is not having a good effect on the team. Carl has told us that he’s spoken to her on a number of occasions about her behaviour, but she’s not improved at all and he wants to discipline her. When we’ve asked to see the notes from the meetings he’s been unable to produce these. Without notes from his previous discussions with her, its difficult for us to help him progress this to the disciplinary stage. Realistically Carl needs to be able to demonstrate that he’s tried to deal with this issue and isn’t just jumping straight to disciplinary. If he can’t show that he’s given Stacey the opportunity to improve, then it may be seen as him being heavy handed by disciplining her for what is her first documented occurrence of this conduct.

Consistency is the key

How easy is it to let things slide some days? You don’t have the energy to deal with someone’s poor conduct, maybe you’re in a bad mood and you don’t want to shout, so you let it slide…this time.

This isn’t the ideal way to tackle conduct issues. By not dealing with these issues each time they come up, you are sending mixed messages. Do you or don’t you find this type of behaviour ok? If you don’t then you need to address it each time.

This means that you address it with any member of your team, not just the ones you aren’t that fond of.


You’ve told them time and time again not to do something, but they aren’t listening to you. Have you asked yourself why they aren’t listening to you? Do you follow the same pattern over and over? Just telling them off and not following up?

If this sounds familiar, then stop and have a think about how you can change this. Unless there are consequences for poor conduct then your employees will continue to do these things. When there are consequences, people tend to take it more seriously and will stop this behaviour.

Make it clear what the consequences are i.e. a disciplinary hearing and follow through with this.

Mum’s the word

One of the main pitfalls of managers with a rude or difficult employee is venting. Everyone needs to vent, but you need to choose wisely. Don’t vent to anyone and everyone who will listen, and you should really avoid venting to other people in your team. If you’re struggling with things, then speak to your line manager and see if they can suggest a different approach.

Always the professional

It’s hard when you’re a manager not to take things like this personally. But it really isn’t personal. People have different ways of coping with certain stresses in their lives, and sometimes it comes out in the way they conduct themselves. Never make it personal when you’re giving them feedback, always keep it factual. Imagine how you would feel on the receiving end of the feedback that you’re about to give and think what questions you would ask; like “you’ve said I was rude to a colleague, can you please give me an example”.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

Just because your employee has been rude or difficult towards you, does not give you the right to behave in this way as well. If you feel that you are unable to deal with their behaviour straight away due your own feelings, then take yourself off to a quiet room and think about how to approach it logically.


If you would like help dealing a rude employee, don't hesitate to get in touch with our experts on 03300 414 636.