The 7 Bad Employees All Companies Encounter (And How to Handle Them)

Workplaces are as diverse as the people working in them. For every top performer you hire, you’ll have another employee whose negative behaviors or mindset threaten to disrupt the smooth workings of your team.

Below, I’ve identified seven of these bad employees in particular, as well as offered suggestions on how you can manage them effectively. Consider these recommendations, but also keep in mind that it’s up to you to make the best decisions for your company.

1. Bob Bully

Bob Bully’s behavior can be overt or it can fly under the radar. An employee who complains about unfair treatment or criticism from their manager is obviously being bullied, but so is the employee whose ideas are being stolen or who’s receiving inappropriate comments from a higher-up online.

In fact, Dr. Lisa M. S. Barrow of HRVoice reports that 37% of employees experience workplace bullying on a regular basis. Her suggestions for addressing bullying behavior include the following:

  • Recognize that employees may not feel comfortable outing bullies if they fear they won’t be taken seriously.
  • Develop “no tolerance” policies – and make sure they’re actually enforced.
  • Take bullying reports seriously and provide support to bullied employees.

2. Steve Slacker

While Bob Bully’s bad behavior is obvious, Steve Slacker’s is less so… mostly because you can’t find him at any given time.

Steve seems to disappear whenever colleagues need help. Unfortunately, turning around the behavior of a slacker can be easier said than done. Mary Hladio, Founder of Ember Carriers Leadership Group, suggests the following:

“Regardless of the symptom or reason, in all cases these types of occurrences have to be handled immediately and professionally. Avoiding or delaying dealing with problems may encourage other employees in the company to follow suit or a decrease in morale. When dealing with a “slacker” or underperforming employee your goal will be to improve the situation so that the employee’s behavior is modified over time.”

3. Nick Narcissist

Narcissists in the workplace are all ego, all the time. This ego may manifest in an unrealistic sense of self-importance or overinflated judgement, but it can also be seen in employees who seem humiliated by negative feedback.

When managing a narcissist you may have some success directing them to solo projects or – in the best-case scenarios – leveraging their desire for accolades to drive better performance. At the very least, you need to be aware of the impact Nick Narcissist will have on his other teammates.

Leadership consultant David Burkus shares:

“The narcissist’s strong personality will dominate weak situations, so even more so than your other employees, make sure the narcissist is working in a strong system with clearly defined and consistently reinforced behavioral expectations.”

4. Debbie Drama

“Drama queen” (or “drama king”) employees aren’t hard to spot. You’ll find Debbie Drama hanging out by the water cooler, stirring up office gossip or complaining about something that’s gone wrong in her life.

Unchecked, employees with an overdeveloped taste for drama can disrupt the productivity of others – not to mention diminish morale. More productive employees hate to see attention-seeking behavior indulged, and may become frustrated by Debbie Drama’s frequent interruptions.

Managing overly-dramatic employees starts with setting appropriate boundaries. Set a schedule for face-to-face meetings that will help the employee feel heard, but that limit the number of times you’ll be sucked into their many crises. Even better, redirect the employee into projects that use their interpersonal energy (just be cautious that team meetings don’t devolve into extended gossip sessions).

5. Ellie Einstein

Ellie Einstein is a know-it-all. And while their obvious brains may be an asset to your company, their tendency to brag about their superiority to others and dismiss others’ opinions can make it difficult for them to form effective team relationships.

According to Renee Evenson, writing for the American Management Association, “The key to dealing with these types is to use tact and assertiveness.”

Let Ellie Einstein know how she’s perceived by her coworkers. Ask her to explore for herself why they might feel that way, and what she can do to change the perception. Often, know-it-all behavior is rooted in feelings of self-consciousness. Giving these employees an honest evaluation will help them identify the root of their on-the-job challenges.

6. Lisa Loner

More and more of today’s employees are expected to cover multiple roles and responsibilities, making teamwork and interpersonal relationships vital to effective office environments. That said, not all employees take naturally to these new conditions, and you’ll see this discomfort manifest particularly in employees who identify themselves as loners.

Bringing loners into the fold comes down to finding the employee engagement strategies that’ll help them build the relationships that are necessary for workplace success. Experiment until you find the right fit. It may not be the ping-pong table in the breakroom that gets them engaged, but the small group team lunches you hold once a month.

7. Vicky Victim

Nothing goes right for Vicky Victim – and she’s never to blame. We’ve all known people who live with a victim mentality, but in the workplace, this kind of attitude can result in diminished performance and lowered morale (both hers and that of the team around her).

Cindy Battino, writing for Modern DC Business, offers suggestions for spotting Vicky Victims in the workplace: “They tend to blame others and not take responsibility. They will whine and moan behind people’s backs. They can have acerbic and inappropriate humor. They are your tortoises – they do things slowly.”

Managing employees with a victim mindset requires that you remain objective and apply disciplinary actions as needed due to poor performance. However, if the situation doesn’t improve, consider the advice given by Wagepoint’s “Epic Guide to Employee Management”:

“There will be times in which disciplinary action is unsuccessful for an employee, and you’ll have to terminate their employment. In these cases, always remain calm and professional, cite the employee handbook for further support and explanation, and follow your organization's laws and guidelines for termination.”
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