If problem employees were easy to spot, weeding them out of your organization would be a simple task.

However, many “bad apples” know their behavior could get them into trouble, and hide their questionable behavior as a result. To them, doing something you’re not supposed to in secret is easier than just stopping the bad behavior!

It’s important for managers, executives and entrepreneurs to be able to sniff out problem employees and either correct their behavior or eliminate them from the company. Fortunately, there are a few telltale sign that can give away the presence and identity of a problem employee.

Creeping negativity

If your staff meetings and general work environment have become increasingly negative, it could be due to a problem employee. These people typically don’t handle change or stress well, and if one of your employees seems to be constantly complaining about everything, something needs to be done.

Try taking the employee aside and asking if they could be more constructive in their complaints. Enforce the idea that everyone needs to help solve problems – not just point them out.

The “not my job” attitude

Unfortunately, due to downsizing or other forces, there will occasionally be added responsibilities workers need to take on to keep an organization running smoothly. Employees who resist or try to pass off added duties to other workers can have a negative knock-on effect to the rest of the staff.

Be sensitive to the possibility that an employee is being overworked. However, if other employees seem to be handling occasional extra duties, there’s no reason to tolerate one worker trying to shirk their extra responsibility.

Employee conflicts focus on one person

Employees will have disagreements and complaints about each other from time to time, but if you happen to notice these issues starting to swirl around a single person, or one good employee is starting to draw negative attention,  it is time to intervene.

Talk to the employee in question and find out if the root cause of all the issues. It could be a temporary stress – a family illness or car troubles – or a serious problem – bad cultural fit or negative general attitude. Try to determine if minor or major adjustments need to be made.

Complaints from customers and vendors

Problem employees may be able to hide their negative actions from people working in the company, but occasionally it’s people outside the company who bear the brunt of a negative employee’s actions. Just as you would with your staff, make it a habit to occasionally touch base with your customers and vendors to find out how their latest interactions with the company have gone.

If you do start hearing complaints from outsiders about your organization, have a candid conversation with the employee in question to get their side of the story and determine if any action needs to be taken.

Sometimes, problem employees cannot be dealt with through communication and training. When you need to replace a problem employee with a highly qualified worker, feel free to give us a call and we can discuss our range of talent acquisition options.

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