Backstabbing, shirking responsibilities and planting seeds of distrust should get these nightmare workers the pink slip
It isn’t the truly terrible employees who cause the real problems. Whether clearly incompetent or unbelievably lazy, they’re easy to spot. With these workers, you quickly identify the problem — then let the person go and move on.
The real problems are caused by employees who appear to be doing a satisfactory job but meanwhile act like what a friend once called an “insidious cancer,” slowly destroying other employees’ performance, attitude and morale — and with them, your business.
Here are eight destructive qualities of employees you absolutely must address — or, worst case, need to let go:
1. They lead the meeting after the meeting
You have a meeting. Issues are raised. Concerns are shared. Decisions are made. Everyone in attendance fully supports those decisions. Then someone holds the “meeting after the meeting.” Now he talks about issues he didn’t share earlier with the group. Now he disagrees with the decisions made. And now, what was going to happen never will. Waiting until after a meeting to say, “I’m not going to support that,” is like saying, “I’ll agree to anything, but that doesn’t mean I’ll actually do it. I’ll even work against it.”
2. They say, “That’s not my job”
The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes to get things done. Even if that means a manager has to help load a truck or the office staff has to perform a task in the shop. Any task an employee is asked to do — as long as it isn’t unethical, immoral or illegal, and it’s below his or her current position — is a task an employee should be willing to do. “It’s not my job,” says, “I care only about me.” That attitude quickly turns a cohesive team into a dysfunctional group of individuals.
3. They act as if they’ve already paid their dues
An employee did great things last year, last month, or even yesterday. You’re appreciative. You’re grateful. But today is a new day. Dues aren’t paid. Dues get paid. The only real measure of any employee’s value is the tangible contribution he or she makes on a daily basis. Saying, “I’ve paid my dues,” is like saying, “I no longer need to work as hard.” And before you know it, other employees start to feel they’ve earned the right to coast, too.
4. They think experience is a tangible commodity
Experience is definitely important, but experience that doesn’t translate into better skills, better performance and greater achievement is worthless. For example, a colleague once said to younger supervisors, “My role is to be a resource.” Great, but then he sat in his office all day waiting for us to come by so he could dispense his pearls of wisdom. Of course, none of us did stop by. We were all busy thinking, “I respect your experience, but I wish your role was to do your job.”
5. They love gossip
Before a meeting, some of us were talking about supervisors in another department when our new boss looked up and said, “Stop. From now on we will never say anything bad about anyone unless they are actually in the room. Period.” Until then, I never thought of gossip as a part of a company’s culture — gossip just was. We all did it. And it sucked — especially because being the focus of gossip sucked.
Employees who create a culture of gossip waste time better spent on productive conversations. They also cause other people to respect their co-workers a little less. And anything that diminishes the dignity or respect of any employee should never be tolerated.
6. They use peer pressure to hold others back
The new employee works hard. She’s hitting targets and exceeding expectations. And she eventually hears, from a more “experienced” employee, “You’re working too hard and making the rest of us look bad.” A great employee doesn’t compare herself with others — she compares herself with herself. She wants to “win” that comparison by improving and doing better today than she did yesterday.
Poor employees don’t want to do more; they want others to do less. They don’t want to win. They just want others to make sure they don’t lose. Saying, “You’re working too hard,” is like saying, “No one should work hard, because I don’t want to work hard.” And pretty soon very few people do — and the ones who keep trying get shunned for a quality you need every employee to possess.
7. They rush to grab the glory ...
OK, maybe he did do nearly all the work. Maybe he did overcome almost every obstacle. Maybe without him, that high-performance team would have been anything but. But probably not. Nothing important is ever accomplished alone, even if some people love to act like it.
A good employee and good team player shares the glory. He credits others. He praises. He appreciates. He lets others shine. That’s especially true for an employee in a leadership position. He celebrates the accomplishments of others secure in the knowledge that their success reflects well on him, too.
Saying, “I did all the work,” or “It was all my idea,” is like saying, “The world revolves around me, and I need everyone to know it.” And even if other people don’t adopt the same philosophy, they resent having to fight for recognition that is rightfully theirs.
8. ... And they rush to throw others under the bus.
A vendor complains. A customer feels shortchanged. A co-worker gets mad. No matter what has happened, it’s someone else’s fault. Sometimes, whatever the issue and regardless of who is actually at fault, some people step in and take the hit. They willingly accept the criticism or abuse, because they know they can handle it. Few acts are more selfless than taking the undeserved hit. And few acts better cement a relationship. Few acts are more selfish than saying, “It wasn’t me.” At the best companies, everyone is in it together. Anyone who isn’t needs to go.
About the Author
Jeff Haden is a contributing editor for Inc.com and a LinkedIn Influencer.