Don’t Fire Your Employees: Righting the Wrongs of Nightmare Employees

| September 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

When Dreams Become Nightmares

If hiring great employees is a small battle, managing employees is a world war. Knowing many employers over the years, I often hear about employees that start off great with the bosses bragging about how motivated and detail-oriented the new hires are. At some point the honeymoon ends and there is some growing tensions. Rieva Lesonsky, CEO, President & Founder, of GrowBiz Media, identifies 5 common ways a dream employee becomes a nightmare:

  1. The Star becomes a Diva because management gives special treatment at the start, and the Star player gets upset when the privileges taper off.
  2. The Perfectionist becomes manic when he or she takes on too much or takes too long and the work flow bottlenecks.
  3. A polite employee turns out to be two-faced or passive-aggressive, but had the right attitude in front of the boss.
  4. The Leader that makes a power grab or ladder climbs while compromising the team.
  5. And the Grunt that runs out of steam after months of taking on the world.

When I hear about these shifts, I wonder if it is inevitable that there will be friction–and clashes–between all coworkers at some point. So I give this advice: “Better the devil you know, than the one you don’t.”

The Devil You Know

The last few posts have had to do with hiring employees, but what about managing them? Let me be clear about one thing, I am not claiming anyone is the devil here but I do want to use the proverb. It simply means that I would prefer to be aware of the faults, weaknesses, and history of an employee whose habits I may not like, but can manage. If I let the employee go, I will have to hire someone new and have no idea what his or her weaknesses will be. There is no guarantee the new hire will be better than the one before.

The employees in the list above (except for #3) started out as good employees. What happened to them? My guess is that good work was not rewarded, work loads were unbalanced, and other employees felt like they were getting unequal treatment. Everyone feels like the world is against them at times, so as a boss, don’t create an environment that sucks the life out of your best employees.

If You Have to Fire Someone

I remember terminating a guy and offering to take some of the blame by saying, “I may not have described the extent of skills I needed in our initial interview.” I was being kind to him. He went off in a defensive mode and let me know that I was “a piece of…” I let him go through his one-minute rant and off he went. My secretary overheard my conversation and asked me why I allowed the former employee to insult me. My response was, “There was nothing I could say to change the way he feels, and if anything, it will just drag out the conversation.” I like King Solomon’s words of advice, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.”

I stand by what I said here, but there are also real-world reasons to keeping the conversation short and based on job performance. Apologies can make it look like you are uncertain of your decision. And finally, you may regret it. Anything you say can be held against you if the employee applies for unemployment, sues, or badmouths you to your other employees.

Greener Pastures

Employers and employees are people. The grass on the other side is always greener, so take that feeling out of the equation. Balance work loads. When rewarding team members, don’t focus on one person. Openly celebrate how each person contributed, and privately correct peoples mistakes. If you have a rising star, make sure that they don’t let it go to their head. But if the star deserves a promotion and you can afford to offer a raise, give it to them. Otherwise, your star employee may jump the fence and work in your competition’s yard.


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