Most small businesses have at least a couple of “Type A” personalities.  While these employees tend to be hard working and passionate, they also tend to butt heads with other similarly-minded employees and managers.  As the boss, it’s important not to stifle their passion or their efforts—instead, you need to help them apply that passion productively.  Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your potentially combative personalities:

  1. Define their territory.  Typically, a manager must encourage their employees to take ownership of their work and to give maximum effort. When managing a Type A personality, you also need to let them know where their boundaries are. Allow them freedom and creativity as much as possible, but clearly define the areas that they don’t have a say in. Most employees are perfectly happy to respect borders as long as you carve out an area where they can take control.
  2. Don’t ignore the problem. Chances are if you have two Type A’s butting heads, they will continue to butt heads— and the problem is likely to get worse, not resolve itself. You need to provide a solution, whether it is a compromise, a definitive ruling, or even reassigning one or both employees.  Address these problems as they arise and they’ll be manageable… ignore them, and they will come back to bite you.
  3. Encourage healthy competition. While you don’t want competition to escalate to a level that will negatively affect your operation, healthy competition is great for any organization. If a few of your employees are competing over who had the most new sales, who gets their job done more effectively, or who can solve a problem the most creatively… you don’t have a problem on your hands!  You have workers who are motivated to do the best job possible. Just be sure the competition doesn’t become personal or lead to poor performance in other areas.

As long as they are managed correctly, a Type A personality can bring a lot to the table. While combative personalities may be difficult to deal with at times, they also bring unique strengths to your business. As long as you can keep rivalries under control and keep everyone focused on the right areas, “difficult” employees can grow into among your most valuable assets.

What has been your experience with managing difficult or combative employees? Share your thoughts below!