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Are High Maintenance Employees Bad for Business?

Posted by: on May 24, 2017 in employee relations Human Resources


imageWhether you run a small or large company, chances are you have at least one high-maintenance employee. Someone who avoids accountability, doesn’t work well on a team, and is constantly requiring your attention. While the easy answer may be to let them go, they might be an essential asset to your company - a high-performer in addition to being high-maintenance. Replacing them might be risky - you would have to spend time and money to train someone new, who may not be as skilled at the previous worker.

Keeping them can also be tough - dealing with them takes up more of your time than anything else. So what do you do?

Typically, a high-maintenance employee is just one whose needs are not being met. Though it's not always easy to manage an employee who requires constant attention, it is possible. Here are some tips to help you handle a high-maintenance employee:

Open up a dialogue with your high-maintenance employee. Sometimes the problem can be as simple as a misunderstanding, and the solution can be as simple as having an honest conversation. Your employee might be able to identify what they need from you, but is unsure about coming to you directly to ask for it. Give them the opportunity to be direct.

Identify their competence and confidence levels. Most employees can be divided into four competence/confidence levels, each needing a different management technique:
  • A High Competence/High Confidence employee is typically someone in need of more challenge, like managing a project on their own, or even a department.
  • High Competence/Low Confidence employees are looking for encouragement and recognition.
  • A Low Competence/High Confidence employee thinks they're doing a great job when in reality they’re aren’t meeting expectations. They need specific feedback and examples to help bring their skills in line with their confidence.
  • Low Competence/Low Confidence employees require more effort than the other types of employees, so they may not be worth keeping, but even they still have the opportunity to thrive through peer coaching, working in groups, or additional training.


  • Discuss expectations about when and how your employees should be asking for help. Rather than ignoring or avoiding an employee’s questions or getting frustrated with their need for direction, encourage them to take more initiative on their own or problem-solve with peers before coming to a manager with questions. Giving them clear expectations can help to reduce their need for constant direction.

    Create a plan to check in weekly. Some employees just need regular one-on-one time with a manager. Create a plan for a scheduled weekly check-in where you can give them your undivided attention, recognize their successes, answer their questions, and discuss their opportunities for improvement. If after a few months there is no improvement, it may be time to let the employee go.

    The most important thing to remember is to treat all employees with respect and dignity. When attempting to correct a high-maintenance employee, stay focused on their specific problem behaviors, rather than speaking about their character. Give clear goals to be met by specific timelines so there’s no room for excuses and no questions about accountability. High-maintenance employees aren’t always bad for business, they can be great assets to your company when managed correctly.

    Emplicity understands that HR Outsourcing should be simple and meaningful. As a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), we strive to be a great partner in supporting your business. If you would like to request more information on how we can assist your needs, please reach out to us at 877-476-2339. We are located in California – Orange County, Los Angeles, and the greater Sacramento and San Francisco area.

    NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of their clients.