What Are The Warning Signs Of A Bad Employee?

How can you tell when you are dealing with a bad employee?
How can you tell when you are dealing with a bad employee?
Image Credit: Jason Eppink

As a manager, you are responsible for a team of professions. You’d like to think that each of the members of your team would always be doing everything that they can to move the team forward and to make the company be more successful. However, it turns out that at times you may use your manager skills to discover that you have a bad employee on your team. Before you can take action, you have to first detect that they are there. The question that you have to be able to answer that you won’t be learning in any manager training is how can a manager detect when they have a bad employee?

Being Above It All

One of the first signs that you have a bad employee on your team will occur when there is an unpleasant task that needs to be done. These tasks can take on a number of different appearances; however, they are generally drudge work – repetitious tasks that will take a long time to complete. As a manager you realize that nobody who understands what the task is will be excited to take it on. However, the work needs to be done and you are going to have to select members of your team to accomplish it.

A bad employee will start to show up when you assign them to work on a task like this. What you are going to start to see is pushback from them. What they are going to be telling you is that they are too good, too important, too busy to have to work on a task that is beneath them. What you are going to discover is that they are unwilling to do the work. Sure, you may be able to force them to do it, but they are not going to take the initiative and start to do it by themselves.

Lording Experience

The members of your team will each have a different amount of tenure on your team. The more time that they have spent as a member of the team, the more they should know about how things work and how to accomplish tasks. If you ran the world, you’d prefer to have more people on your team who had more experience working as a part of your team.

Where a bad employee can start to raise their head is when they realize that they have more tenure than a number of other people on your team. What they will start to do now will be to attempt to lord their experience over those who have less. What they are going to be missing is that it really does not matter how long someone has worked for you. Rather, it matters what they have been able to accomplish and what they are going to be able to accomplish in the future.


Sitting around and talking about other people really does not help your team to accomplish what they have signed up to do. As a manager, you need to realize that you are not going to be able to prevent this kind of discussion from happening within your team. However, how much of it happens and how often it is happening is something that you can control.

Your bad employees are going to stand out when it comes to gossip. They really don’t care how much time they waste gossiping – you’ll find them doing it all the time. The other thing that this type of employee won’t worry about will be the negative work environment that gossip can create. The information that they are passing on and learning is much more important to them than any damage that they might be doing.

Taking The Credit

With a little luck your team is going to be successful. This means that they will set out to accomplish something, work at it, and then end up being successful. When this happens, it’s going to be time for the entire team to celebrate what they’ve been able to accomplish. As a manager, this is the time that you are going to have to keep your eyes open. You’ll want to see how each individual member of your team chooses to celebrate what has been done.

The bad employee will stand out from the others. This employee will be attempting to find ways to get the spotlight of recognition to shine on them. They are going to want to be seen as being the person who was the biggest contributor to the team’s success. They won’t realize that their goal should be to get the spotlight to shine on others and not brag about their accomplishments.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers have the tough job of finding ways to get the most out of their teams. What this means is that they need to find ways to use team building and other techniques to get their teams to achieve great results. A significant challenge to accomplishing this can come in the form of bad employees. A manager needs to be able to determine if they have any bad employees on their team.

A manager cans start to determine if an employee is a bad employee if they seem them pushing back against common tasks. If an employee thinks that they are above doing some work, then they are not a real team player. Experience is a good thing, but bad employees tend to lord their experience over the members of the team who have not been on board for as long as they have. Gossiping is never a good thing and bad employees tend to spend a lot of time doing it. Finally, when the team accomplishes something a bad employee will often try to steal the spotlight and brag about their accomplishments.

No manager wants to have a team that has bad employees on it. Knowing how to detect bad employees is the first step in coming up with a way to deal with them. Keep your eyes open and more often than not any bad employees on your team will make themselves known to you. Once you know who they are, you’ll then be able to take steps to correct their behavior or weed them out.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When you find that you have a bad employee on your team, what should you first steps be?

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