During our show on bad bosses last month, we got a lot of comments from listeners about bad employees too.
How much impact can one or a few bad employees have on a workplace? A lot, according to new research. Having just one bad apple in a group can bring down performance by 30 to 40 percent. What are some of the characteristics of bad employees and what can be done to change the bad behavior or attitude?
Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School, said you can't always blame incompetent employees.
"When bosses continually have lousy employees, it becomes a sign they are doing something wrong," he said. "The question becomes, 'why do these bosses keep selecting bad people?' When that happens, it's time to look in the mirror."
Sutton will join The Daily Circuit Friday to discuss bad employees. Tim Cole, executive vice president of sale at Del Monte Foods, will also join the discussion.
What examples of bad behavior have you seen in the workplace by employees? What do you think could be done to change the behavior?
Welcome everyone. Chime in now with your examples of bad employees.
This chat is a follow up to our discussion on bad bosses.
Employees with the cell phone to the right of the computer, texting, personal e-mails, going out on the patio with their cell phones. Student employees who are so distracted by "gadgets" they never seem to be focused on the job at hand. Why aren't the supervisors addressing this behavior? Because their behavior is identical.
@experienced So would you suggest a cell phone ban of some kind in the workplace?
According to new research. Having just one bad apple in a group can bring down performance by 30 to 40 percent. Does this reflect your experience in the workplace?
Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School. "Deadbeats and jerks" can breakdown the performance of the team.
I have worked at the same place for 13 years. My Boss refuses to take responsibility, and the senior member of my department staff is an absolutely passive aggressive pill. These individuals honestly make me hate my job. I struggle to get out of bed each day.
@KellyS have you been able to raise the issue of the senior staff member with anyone in your HR department, or anyone else that might be able to help you address the matter?
Careful Bob! Please don't equate people with depression/chronic low energy as "losers." We can be awesome employees if people recognize the problem and intervene. Obviously, ultimately it's up to the employee to get better, though, and then it's acceptable to weed them out.
@Michael Olson, MPR News: Sadly, I get ignored. They say "we'll look into it"... but nothing ever happens. This has gone on for over 13 years. These individuals are honestly driving the company out of business. So, I have the double duty of disliking my job, but also facing that my company is likely to go out of business in the next 6 -12 months.
A year ago I tried to be friendly with a new employee because I like to be a nice person. The person thought I was hitting on them. What the heck is the difference between being friendly and what is considered "hitting on" somebody? Makes me want not to be friendly.
Employers seem less willing to fire "bad apples" due to fear of being sued. I've heard the excuse, "We need to build a file on them" or "We need more documentation" before terminating an employee. I've seen a bad employee work for years at a company even though everyone knew they were volatile to the morale and quality of the workplace. So frustrating.
In my previous job, there was one employee who frequently didn't do the work that his coworkers needed him to do but he was often able to keep this invisible to supervisors and managers. He had a kind of rapore with supervisors and anyone else who was higher up. Most people are familiar with this phenomenon as "kissing ***" I and my coworkers all scrambled to fix problems that resulted from his refusal to do his work, which often made us look bad and made projects go poorly. When I said something about the problem to my supervisor I always came away feeling like I had made myself look bad. The supervisor would "talk" to him but no change ever took place. That went on for the entire two years I was there. I work somewhere else now....
Sutton: If you are one boss that has one loser after another, take a look in the mirror.
@Michael Olson, MPR News (like)
Bad employees take a lot of energy and time to manage. It adversely affects the time a manager can invest in the good co-workers.
We saw no results from our sales rep after 9 months so we decided to print a 4 month computer histroy report of his activities. We found that he was spending an average of 4.5 hours per day on social networking websites, unrelated to his job. Some days he was spending up to 7 hours on social network sites. We terminated his employment. He was upset. He filed for unemployment and lost two hearings due to the detailed reports of his activities. He was upset and we were deemed the liar and bad employer by him. The bottom line is that "Bad Employers" and "Bad Employees" are subjective terms and one must have proof to substantiate their claim.
Jason in St Paul: I am probably the worst kind of employee to have. When I see a bad manager, I will push the limits.
Oh, that's helpful.
It is very disruptive. We have employee which just does not engage and will have to talk over instructions 3 or 4 times until sometimes they do it or someone else does it. That person also got their Masters AND Doctoral online during company time.
I actually have a great boss. However, other bosses in my work environment are passive aggressive. This makes for a horrible workplace. Communication goes out the window the minute you get one passive aggressive boss/manager.
Sutton: if you hear more than one or two compliments a day from a boss, beware.
There are 3 kinds of Employees: Shining stars, work horses and dead wood. As a boss you need to polish the shining stars, feed the work horses and burn the dead wood. If the first mistake you made was to hire a bad apple, don't make the worse mistake by not firing them.
Tim Cole: Executive vice president of sales at Del Monte Foods says you have people at the highest levels of industry are being distracted by tablets, smart phones in important meetings.
I once worked where one of my colleagues constantly chattered about how awful our office was (yes, we had a 'bad boss'), even to the point of pointing out to everyone how we could do better at competing firms. Eventually he did take one of those competing offers. But over the next few months, ten/twelve (including myself, to a much better situation) of the professional staff left also, in part I think due to his grass-is-greener elsewhere proselytizing. Bad apple employee or career coach? Depends on your perspective!
Who cares if I look at my cell phone as long as the job gets done. I resent the time based model of working. Define the deliverables, set reasonable deadlines, and let me get them done and live my life.
The future is a results only work environment, where the focus is on the outcome, not the process. If employees are treated like adults, they will be more motivated to perform well.
The best bosses implement an unofficial results only work environments.
While I will acknowledge that I'm not a perfect employee, my jobs worst employee is actually in the upper management. He feels it necessary to micromanage every person in our office, including those not under his supervision. He has created a hostile work environment for every individual in our office. But the CEO thinks he can do no wrong. Two people have already quit, I know of at least 3 more who will be soon.
Should more be done to curb personal use of tablets and smart phones at work?
The brown-nosers socialize with their manager and the administrative assistant to be seen in a good light. They are not the work horses of the department and I have found the brown-nosers are somewhat incompetent.
Thankfully, this is in the past. I was brought in as a 3rd shift manager of a hotel audit team - one who smoked and slept on the job, and one particularly bad egg intentionally would enter wrong numbers in the computer to keep the accounts off balance. This kept the hotel from starting the new day in the computer, and usually led to me having a double shift (or longer) to fix each mess.
I just wanted to say I am The Bad Apple I am one of those employee's that will constantly seek out as much freedom and fun possible in the work place. I am an artist and I think I was born to push the boundaries and am quite productive and focused when stimulated or given creative projects but if the system is loose inconsistent or lenient I will take it as far as I can. I believe a good work place must consist of creativity, warmth and a definite routine and system. Workers should have a decent lunch or down time 45 min. wether or not people decide to use that time taking a siesta in their car or eating in a casual humane way. Treat your employees with dignity and a decent wage but like babies have a strict routine and clear expectations. BTW i am infamous for being late, set a strict rule about being late from the beginning if the lateness continues threaten to garnish wages, that will solve it in a heartbeat.
Today I was promoted to a supervisor/trainer about a year ago and today I have to let my first employee go, one of the reasons being "The Bad Apple". Any tips?
@La Gitana Others have talked about this desire for outcomes-based measures. How does your employer respond to your approach? Do you feel you have clear guidance on what is expected of you?
I was considered a "bad" apple. I was really good at my job and got the work done on time and accurately. My backup was a nightmare. She would make horrific comments and undermine me anytime she could. I couldn't deal with it - and went to my manager - who wanted nothing to do with the situation. Any suggestion I had to better the situation the manager said no to. Finally, I couldn't handle my emotions in the workplace and was constantly in tears - needless to say I was given my walking papers and my coworker was told "good job" I escalated the situation to Senior management - who determined I was being harrassed and in a bad situation - but because I couldn't contain my emotions - I was put on 90 day review and my bonus was eliminated. I stayed at the company for 7 1/2 more years - the other person left four months later.
I've always gotten outstanding reviews in the 10+ years I've been at my company, love my job, and most of the ppl I work with. All of a sudden, someone I considered mediocre in her role was promoted to manager of our team. I find myself being a bit of a "bad apple" in that I can't bring myself to be happy in our team meetings. I'm not publicly verbal about these feelings, but it's evident I'm not happy. I'm sad that it affects the others on the team who are awesome, but they also understand and echo my sentiments. We are all independent workers and still very committed to good work, but morale in our team setting is very low.
In some cases there needs to be a minimum number of staff required by licensing. Sometimes a warm body is all that can be found to keep the doors open. Very Frustrating as a director.
Sutton: You can blame the lawyers, but if you don't document bad behavior it is the bosses problem.
@Steve what do you mean by "licensing"?
My husband was going in on days off to fill out forms on the computer because the other employees tied up all computers on Facebook through the whole shift
My co-worker abuses sick time. We get 5 days and she takes 12. She takes her entire allocation of vacation. She could be taking sick time without pay but I doubt it. Our boss (a great guy otherwise) works across the country from her (as do I) and he hates confrontation. There are four of us maintaining an ancient legacy computer system and it would be difficult to replace her.
My old roommate worked in a hospital cleaning. One of his coworkers ignored SOP with cleaning HOSPITAL supplies and eqpt but they couldnt fire her because she was part of a union.
What would the guests say about the affect "bad apple" legislators, congresspersons & senators have on the legislative process?
OH LORD.. speaking of the "Bad Apple" family member... This is rampant where I work. My company chooses to promote unqualified family over people with degrees and actual skills. It is insanely frustrating, especially when these promoted individuals violate the company codes and screw around all day and NEVER get reprimanded.
As a boss I have learned that empathy kicks you in the butt! The good employees are those who know something should be done to a bad employee but they do not do anything. Then when the boss deals with the bad employee, they still get no support.
It also depends on if the employee is part of a union. GOOD LUCK.
What do you do if you suffer from depression and lower energy levels. I *WANT* do to a good job and have pride in my work, and psych myself up every day, but at some point I just loose energy.
This might help: changethis.com
Your situation is a circumstance. I you can be worked with.
The key is really attitude!
we are a child care center and there are minimum ratios to meet
Hire for attitude. The rest we can provide. You just can't change someones poor attitude!
For example in the infant room. 1 paid staff to 4 infants, the 5th child means another staff.
Cole: Smart backstabbers are the most difficult workers to deal with.
Oh, backstabbers. Typically the employee, you bent over backwards to save their job.
The first to open the door for you aftet they have tunneled under you.
The employee that is the most challanging is the one who has been addressed and continues to push the limits and plays the line.
That earlier caller that likes to challange his boss to see how the react would be sent down the road!
I used to work with a very aggressive/bully manager and was glad I didn't work for him until he was promoted to the General Manager position by a Regional Vice President and every single employee came to complain that they didn't feel comfortable working for him. With this bad boss in place the workplace became an incubator for disenchanted or openly insubordinate staff and unfortunately those employees had to be retained because they knew it would be impossible to retain an entire staff or replace them with such a reputation for a hostile manager. It became an awful place to work with further help from the RVP who began eliminating the insulating layer of managers and supervisors to make unnecessary cuts to pad his budget in a stagnant economy. After a year of calls to the employee hotline for harassment and bullying as well as disproportinate drops in revenue due to an unmotivated staff the manager found work outside the industry and the new manager was a saavy change agent. Her first action was to give the opportunity for anyone unhappy to leave with severance, a good reference, and uncontested Unemployment benefits. It was a very good move and a year later my former colleagues (I took the deal aned went to a different company) tell me it's a great place to work after so much change and they're a successful business.
MN Boss--very good comment, you can train an employee for everything but having a good attitude.
I think that even bad employees who have bad attitude can be manageable through patience and maturity. A manager's job is to be responsible for employees and tasks therefore he/she should show a sense of maturity that is composed of patience and leadership by example. If you live or work or be around someone for 40 days, you either adapt and take their attitude or they take yours. So as a boss show lead by example so that the employee with bad behavior can change. thanks.
Thanks everyone for sharing your perspectives.