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Seven employee types you can do without

May 16, 2013

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By George Brown

At ASE we have several barometers that give us a sense of the “weather” out there, i.e., the issues employers are facing at any given point in time. Two of the barometers are the research calls we take and the training classes our members attend.  As of late, we have taken a number of calls for classes on how to deal with difficult employees.

At some point in any discussion about difficult employees, the question moves from how to deal with them to what to do about them.

If you are an HR Manager you have probably taken a call or two from a supervisor that goes something like this:  “I’ve always felt that I can’t do without Fred, but he has a habit that is really causing major problems in his department. We’ve worked with him on it, but the behavior just doesn’t change no matter what we do or what we say. It just doesn’t change.”

Eventually, if the manager has done everything he or she can do and the employee has still not made the needed behavior change, it gets to the point where there are only two realistic options left—accept Fred and his trait, or fire him.

Steve Tobak is managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley firm that works with CEOs and management teams of small to midsize technology companies. A scientist/engineer by training, Mr. Tobak has a long resume filled with management-side involvement in IPOs and the development, marketing, and growth of a number of successful technology companies.

In a recent article he wrote for titled 7 Employees You Should Fire Now, Mr. Tobak argues that there are seven types of people in your organization that you should not keep trying to change. Sooner or later you simply need to get rid of them, no ifs, ands or buts. Mr. Tobak, of course, is a CEO and sees things from the perspective of the CEO—he allows himself the luxury of assuming HR will first sweep the field clear of all the legal and ethical landmines before he steps in and terminates the offending employee. As HR people well know, that can be an unrealistic assumption.

But he may have a point. See if any of these stereotypes—which, by the way, are not gender-specific despite the depiction below—bring back bad memories, and if you agree that you should have parted ways with them much sooner than you did.

  • She is a troublemaker: This is the one who creates far more problems than she solves, so that the problems far outweigh the achievements for the organization.
  • He overpromises and under delivers: He always makes promises and never delivers on them. He craves the attention that comes with making big commitments but never lives up to them.
  • She acts out with customers: Customers are hard to gain and easy to lose. Success in business is about winning and holding onto customers. This one’s bad attitude sticks out to customers and drives them away.
  • He can’t or won’t do the job. Once you hire him, train him, communicate what the job entails and give him the tools to get the job done, it is time for him to get the job done. If after several chances he doesn’t, it is time to cut him loose.
  • She’s unreliable. She seems perfect for the job, but when it really matters she fails often enough—she “flakes out,” to use Mr. Tobak’s term—that you cannot trust her any longer.
  • He’s entitled. He is more thin-skinned, argumentative, litigious than any human being has the right to be. You do not need to put up with that behavior, and you should not.
  • She ignores standards of conduct. Whatever your organization’s rules are, you cannot allow any individual undermine them by openly ignoring them. You have to uphold them consistently and she makes it practically impossible for you to do so.

Mr. Tobak’s recommendations may seem simplistic and overly harsh, to say nothing of the legal tightwire you always have to walk when disciplining and finally terminating someone’s employment. No one welcomes that kind of stress. But for him, there is nothing more stressful than having to deal with employees who aren’t cutting it and drag down the whole organization. His recommendation?  Quit thinking about it and just get rid of them. You’ll sleep better at night–and so will the rest of your team. Do you agree?

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