Managing “Divas” in Your Workplace

May 18, 2010 in HR Best Practices



The word “diva” no longer refers exclusively to a distinguished female opera star.

In recent years, the term has commonly been used to describe any difficult employee, male or female, who:

  • is used to getting what he wants;
  • thinks he needs no guidance or management;
  • lives for drama in the workplace;
  • is hyper-critical, sensitive and intolerant;
  • is great at what he does.

If you have a diva on staff, you need to learn how to keep him in line without driving him out the door.  You need to find a way for your employees to co-exist peacefully and productively.  Here are some techniques for reigning in this high performing – albeit challenging – type of employee:

  1. Nip annoying behaviors in the bud.  Discuss problematic behaviors immediately – before they develop into patterns.  This allows you to address issues without releasing a wave of emotional build-up.
  2. Act based on facts – not gossip or rumor.  Too often, co-workers compound problems by spreading gossip.  So when drama unfolds, don’t assume what others tell you is true.  If you haven’t witnessed a diva’s inappropriate behavior yourself, look into it further.  Listen to both sides of the story, to be sure you get all the facts.
  3. Keep open lines of communication.  Divas need to vent more than other employees.  Keep drama to a minimum by maintaining an “open door” policy.  If a diva has a chance to voice frustrations to you, he will be less likely to stir up conflict with other employees.
  4. Keep your emotions in check.  Never stand around arguing with a diva.  Make your point once, clarify if necessary, and move on.  A difficult employee may get a rise out of seeing you lose your cool, so stay calm and positive.  If you need to, walk away from the situation and come back once you’ve regained your composure.
  5. Make your diva part of the solution.  Give your problematic employee the opportunity to help develop a solution to the problem.  He is more likely to implement behavior change if he’s at least partly responsible for developing it.
  6. Get outside help.  If sparks fly when you and your diva communicate, ask a neutral third party to step in.  With no ulterior motive or emotional ties to the situation, an objective individual may improve how you communicate and work together.

Of course, the best way to handle difficult employees is to avoid hiring them in the first place.  As experienced national food and beverage industry recruiters, Kinsa Group provides a range of recruiting and assessment services that identify potentially difficult candidates – and keep them out of your talent pool.  Contact us to find out more about our recruiting and assessment services.