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How to Deal With a Bad Employee

Updated on May 13, 2020
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I am an author, entrepreneur, business man, manager, and general know it all.

Warning, Warning Will Robertson!

Before you read this article...

I want to remind you that different countries, states, providences and even cities can have their own rules in regards to how employee relationships have to be managed.

Please do your own research about what you are allowed and not allowed to do, before you do it! My suggestions, are just suggestions and they might not apply to your situation.

Your business has a bad employee.

So your business has a bad employee. Let's make a few assumptions about who is reading this article.

Assumptions I am making

1. You are enabled to make changes in the business. (hiring, firing etc.)

2. You do not have a personal grudge or bias against this employee.

3. Your employee is not breaking the law, and you are not in danger or feel in danger from the employee.

If you can say "Yes" to all three of these things. This article will apply to you.

You want me to work?
You want me to work?

Some traits that make a bad employee

1. Not capable of completing the job required of them.

2. Not respecting the rules and requirements of the work place.

3. Bad attitude.

4. Always coming in late.

Employee is not capable of completing the job required of them.

What do you do when an employee can't do the job that is assigned to them?

I once had the position of training new employees on the physical skills to complete our services at a business I worked at. They were simple enough skills similar to painting a wall with a brush.

So all that required was a bit of precision, manual dexterity and an eye for detail.

Although most employees found it quite easy to do, occasionally I would run into somebody who just wasn't able to do the job. I remember one young man, he couldn't even make a straight line.

He kept zig zagging even when I grabbed his hand and said "No keep it straight! Keep it straight!" We weren't able to continue his employment because he just couldn't do the job!

Another young man refused, and I mean refused to even touch the tools we use to do our service. We had to let him go after an hour there was no point in training him for the job.

These are pretty extreme examples. But it made me realize that some people are just not capable of fitting the right role for a business. That is something we all need to be aware of.

What if this job is a special situation?

It depends on what kind of job and why they are not able to complete it.

If what you need done is irregular within the requirements of the job, for instance you want your receptionist to walk a bunch of dogs, when normally she answers your phone, and books your appointments. But she is deadly scared of dogs.

I would not personally consider this a negative because it is out of the normal realm of their job. People are good at somethings and not others. That is the way of the world. Just find somebody else to do it and don't hold it against them. (Until its time for the Christmas bonuses anyway!)

But if you require your employee to do things for the job that they are not capable of doing, such as an accountant, who doesn't know accounting, a receptionist who can't organize appointments or a cook who can't well... cook? Then you should look more into what you are do as an employer.

What to do about your incompetent employee

So you have an employee, and they can't do their job.

The first step is to ask yourself some questions as to why they can not do their job..

  • Are they going to be able to do the job again at a later date?
  • If it is a temporary thing, and they will be back to their old self at some point in the future then you might be able to wait them out.
  • Do they just lack the ability to do the job?
  • Are they putting people at risk?
  • Are they costing you money?

You can't afford to have dead weight in a business, even a large one. Giving money to people who don't do work is for governments and those get rich quick schemes on the internet!

Can we do anything to resolve this problem?

What can we do as employers to help our employee?

  • Would training or education help?
  • Do they need to work with other staff to learn from them?
  • Are there tools we can provide to help them make the job easier?
  • Is there another job in the organization they might be better suited for?
  • Should they find a better job that works better for their skill set?

Initially you should consider options that would help your employee. But at the end of the day...

Well to be frank, if the employee is not capable of doing the job that is needed they should not have the job. If the employee themselves collects their pay cheque, knowing full well they can't do their job they are stealing from you.

The employee should find something else which is more align with their talents and you should find somebody who can do the job this time!

Why can't they just do their job?
Why can't they just do their job?

Not respecting rules of the work place

This is a "Big No No" as my 6 year old next-door neighbour in the 1980s use to say. The fact is if your employee is not respecting the rules of the work place.

They are putting everybody and your business in danger.

Our rules in our businesses help keep everybody safe.

"Don't do this"

"Don't do that"

"Don't touch that! It's hot!"

These things must be followed. Money rules help keep employees honest, and help us track where expenses are coming and going through out the business.

Safety rules are needless to say paramount. As a business owner the safety of your employees is one of your most important obligations. If an employee is not following the rules. They are not being safe.

So what can you do?

You need to make the employees follow the rules. Right now!

Write down your rules, and hand them to the offending employee. Tell them to work at this business they must follow the rules. If they continue you will have to fire them. It is for their safety as well as yours.

If they don't know the rules, how can they follow them?

— Rich E. Cunningham

Your employee has a bad attitude

Nothing more satisfying then working with somebody with a bad attitude, am I right?

Bad attitudes are almost like a disease in a business, they hurt your staff, customers and your bottom line.

Think about it like this. Would you want to order a hamburger from a fast food restaurant if when you put in your order the cashier rolled her eyes and gave you attitude about it?

"Oh Princess says hold the pickles huh? To good for pickles eh? You snob!"

"Look can I just get my hamburger already?"

Nobody would want to go to that fast food restaurant. It would be a experience. A bad employee is sort of like that.

So what is going on with them anyway?

Now we aren't therapists (atleast most of us) but the question is where does this bad attitude come from?

Is your employee dealing with a temporary problem?

For instance a death in their family or other difficulty?

Although you certainly shouldn't accept a bad attitude just because they are having trouble, you might have room for some compassion

Does the employee have a bad attitude because that's "Just how they roll?"

Such attitude is very disrespectful to you and your business.

Maybe nobody told you this, but this isn't ok. You are providing money to this person, and you deserve respect.

How to recognize a bad attitude?

When it comes to bad attitudes when you know, you know! Since its your business you get to decide what a bad attitude is!

This is why they say absolute power corrupts absolutely you know.

Generally if an employees behavior makes you uncomfortable, embarrassed or otherwise negative in some way. It is a bad attitude and needs to be dealt with.

Signs of a bad attitude in an employee

1. Comes in late or doesn't show up for shifts.

2. Complains to other staff and customers about you and your business.

3. Tries to interfere with customers so they have less work to do.

4. Lets their personal life control their work life.

5. Gossips and stirs up trouble.

Could you just come in on time?
Could you just come in on time?

What you can do about a bad attitude in an employee

Bad attitudes can be hard to deal with. The very fact the employee has a bad attitude at work means they are probably on the way out anyway.

Think about it. Imagine you had your dream job, where you loved the work you did and the people you worked with. Would you risk it by coming in with a bad mojo?

I doubt it.

It means on some level the employee doesn't respect or want the job anymore. Sure they might need the money, or some other aspect of their life might make them want the job still. But it doesn't mean its a priority in their life and they are going to show you how true that is.

The most important thing you can do to resolve a bad attitude is to call the employee on it. Let them know that they can't act like that in your business, and if they continue there will be consequences.

If they continue let them have the consequences and start interviewing for new staff because the will no doubt be gone before long.

Your employee is always coming in late

This is the tough one. I have dealt with this personally. I once had a young man who was in our employ who would always come in about 15 minutes later everyday nonmatter what.

I explained why he needed to come in on time. He understood, but still was not able to do it. We really needed the workers at the time and when he arrived he did good work so it was very difficult. We didn't want to lose him, but the other staff saw what he was getting away with and it was embarrassing to the business and myself personally. Eventually we had to let him go simply because his behavior was infecting the rest of the staff and that was unacceptable.

The fact of the matter is if your employee is coming in late, they are not doing their job. Part of any job is being available to work. That is the employees responsibility and you must require them to uphold it.

Now I'm not being a total jerk. Sometimes people get caught up in life and are late. That is ok, once and awhile. Life happens to all of us.

But when an employee is regularly late to work, they are showing disrespect to their work place and to you. Is that what you built your business for?

One bad apple spoils the bunch

— Annoymous (not the hacker group)
Where are they?
Where are they?

So what can we do about a late employee?

There are a few things you can do to help resolve an employee who is being chronically late to a business.

1. Enforce your own rules!

You must begin to enforce your own rules for your business. Consider it this way, what would you do if all of your staff decided to start coming in late? You get to your business and it is closed, customers waiting outfront. A couple employees roll in with a coffee and a donut, joking to each other.

"Why isn't the store open?" You exclaim.

"Yeah yeah" The employees reply. "I will get around to it eventually. I am still sobering up!"

It doesn't sound like that business would be around long term does it?

You must explain to your employee why they need to be on time for your business, you need to explain what punishments will happen if they are not on time and then leave it in their hands. Unless you are some evil factory owner in a 3rd world country, your employees are adults it's time to start treating them that way!

2. Find out why they are late.

I hate being an understanding and compassionate person don't get me wrong. But just why is this employee late? Is it something out of their control, such as they need to drop their child off at school and cannot get to work fast enough afterwards?

(What about buses or walking? Since when did we become children's chauffeur?)

Maybe if the reason is legitimate we can alter the schedule for the employee isn't rubbing our face in dirt every time they come in late. But I warn you right now. Your other employees will want the same benefits.

3. Fire employee if they cant come in on time.

Nonmatter where you live, generally the government has some basic requirements for employees. One of them is that they come in on time. If you have a employee who simply refused to come in on time. You should consider letting them go. This job isn't for them and the longer you put up with it the more problems you will have with your other staff later.

4 Tips for dealing with bad employees.

1. Stand up for yourself, and your business.

2. Make rules and follow them.

3. Try to resolve the problem

4. Don't be afraid to fire somebody

Just wondering..

Have you ever had to fire a bad employee?

See results


As you can see, dealing with bad employees is a rewarding experience.

But there is a reason a manager is paid more then a basic employee, and that's because their job is harder on some level. Bad employees can be dangerous, they can hurt your business and your reputation. You have to catch them early and deal with them!

Good luck! I am rooting for you!


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