How to deal with difficult staff

Dear Krystle & Pauline,
I own and run a small coffee shop near Liverpool Street in London. When I first started my business, friends were helping me out and so I pretty much let each member of staff develop their own roles.  

However, I am now finding it difficult to transfer the importance of customer service to my team. One staff member in particular has become quite difficult, rude both to customers and me. I have tried to talk to him but he avoids the issue and reminds me how useful he is to the business and how he was there for me at the beginning.  

I cannot sack him as I rely on him to open up and manage the place when I am not there. Please help as I dread going to work.


Dear Alison,
You had the guts and the character to start your own business, so you have the guts to take your business back from your staff. You are essentially being bullied and you need to act now to stop this type of behaviour. When you started your business you should have made roles clear, always draw up contracts and keep relationships professional.

You do not say if you have contracts. If you do, go back to these and look at the role and duties of each person.  Organise one-to-one appraisal meetings with each member of staff and state your concerns. Encourage them to verbalise what they think their aims and objectives from their job roles are. In your meetings clarify what your aims and expectations are from each employee. Explain what the consequences could be if these aims are not met.

If staff behave unreasonably then you should have a procedure in place which everyone is fully aware of. This might include verbal and written warnings as you must have evidence and a paper trail of all incidents and outcomes to prove that you have acted fairly.

You’re unfortunately in a position where you are reliant on one particular member of staff and he knows it. You need to re-establish that you are the owner and the manager. Ensure you are paying a fair wage and that correct working conditions are in place. Leadership and management skills need to be developed so ensure that your skills are up to date. You also need to clarify his duties as you have probably relied on him in excess of his job description. If he is in a management role but does not have the title or the wages to support this he may be resentful. This could be why he is rude to both you and the customers.

If you think he is a valuable member of staff and he is honest and trustworthy it would make sense to sort out the customer service issues with training and guidance. Employees are like children although they may protest, they want organisation, routine, boundaries and discipline. Once your staff sees that you are in control the respect should follow.  Finally seek expert legal advice if the problems persist.

By Krystle and Pauline Downie

Krystle and Pauline Downie run It’s My Magazine, a personalised album for your event, presented in the style of a glossy magazine, and Kadence Bluu, Hair Integration Solutions for women experiencing hair loss.
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