Some "problem employees" can be spotted right away, although many only reveal their personalities and character traits over time. But what they may all share is the potential to stir-up conflict in the workplace, dampen their coworkers' motivation and productivity, and create a genuine risk to the growth of your business.
How many of the following "types" of problem employees are familiar to you? It's worth understanding a bit about each before determining what action, if any, you should take to rectify the situation.
A Litany of Negative Behavior
Here in no particular order are some problem employee traits to watch out for:
- A person who constantly feels victimized by events or by others. He's not going to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong at home or on the job.
- A perpetually negative employee who makes her sour, downbeat presence felt throughout the office. Any suggested changes in the business are met with open (or mumbled) rejection, as well as a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to adopting new behavior. Depending on how comfortable they feel, they may even complain to you about customers or "all the extra work" they have to do.
- Know-it-all types who are fine with their job, but don't feel there's anything new to learn about. In a group meeting or brainstorming session, they'll be quick to dismiss someone else's ideas or, worse, vehemently impose their own views on others.
- Individuals who thrive on internal office politics and are most engaged in the workplace when there's juicy gossip flying around.
Another personality type, known commonly as "Yes Men," or Women, express the kind of zeal you're looking for in employees, but their motives are suspect. Is it really possible that every idea or comment coming from the boss's mouth is perfect? You won't hear about any significant problems from them, and they'll almost always tell you what you want to hear.
Many business owners fall into a particular type, as well. Some are too busy running the business to notice, let alone cope with, problem employees. Instead, they eventually feel a sense of general dispiritedness in the workplace, but with no idea what's caused it. Becoming more aware of how undesirable behavior may appear—and the effect it can have on employee motivation—should be high on every business' priority list.
Solving the Problem
The most cost-effective mechanism for handling difficult employees is to avoid hiring them. Hasty, ill-informed hiring decisions can often turn out badly. A thorough, professional process for recruiting and hiring new employees may be a wiser approach.
When no other option is viable, some business owners may want to "fire fast." They believe the longer things go on with an especially difficult employee, the greater the consequences to the rest of the team. "It's amazing what happens to the morale of a team when an irritant is removed," writes Bill Boyajian, author of Developing the Mind of a Leader. "It's like a breath of fresh air."