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By: Kayla Bell on January 25th, 2016

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Are These Employee Behaviors Creating Problems in Your Business?

Employee Relations

As an HR Consultant, I have worked in a number of organizations varying in size, industry, structure, mission and culture.  While each organization may be unique, every organization I have worked with has one thing in common – the problem employee. The problem employee can show up in a variety of forms and it isn’t always immediately clear that a small underlying problem has a larger impact to your organization.  This article will help you understand some of the ways in which a “problem” may exist in your organization. In each of these scenarios the employee I am describing may bring a unique background or skill set that is incredibly valuable to your organization; however, the problems they bring may offset the value you were hoping to receive when you hired the employee.

How to Identify "Problem Employees" and How They Affect Your Organization


  1. The Stagnant Employee

Commonly referred to as your “steady Eddie”, the Stagnant Employee is perfectly content where he lies in both your company hierarchy and his career.  They show no desire to progress in their career within your organization and typically come to work to earn their paycheck and clock out at 5:00 PM each day.

The problem?  Your Stagnant Employee likely scales low on the employee engagement scale.  Disengaged employees often have a lackluster approach to work and may be costing your organization money, ideas, and most importantly impacting the motivation of others.

  1. The Bitter Employee

You know who I am talking about.  One prime example is the employee who wasn’t selected for that promotion last year and has never let you forget about it. You did something, knowingly or not, that this employee felt was unfair to him or her directly and has not been able to let it go.  This employee may clearly disagree with just about every decision you make as a leader and isn’t good at hiding their personal opinions.  Every decision or statement you make is perceived as a personal attack on this individual and they show up unpleasantly 95% of the time.

The problem? You’re not the only one who notices the Bitter Employee’s attitude.  It likely rubs off on each of the individuals in your organization working with this employee.  Think about how this employee interacts with your top leadership; if they make your job difficult consider how they show up to the employees who aren’t controlling their employment and compensation.

  1. The Self-Interested Employee

I like to call this individual the “employME.”  The Self-Interested Employee is so focused on excelling as an individual they forget to consider the best interest of the team, or even more importantly, the organization.   This employee doesn’t hesitate to take credit for his own, or even others, contributions.  He never lets you forget about what he’s doing for you and is sure that his ideas are the best ideas, each time.

The problem?  How is this employee impacting the team around him if he is not collaborative or supportive?  Successful organizations hire individuals that recognize their role is to support and enhance the organization and as a result excel in their career.  The individual focused so narrowly on his career may not be considering the bigger picture of what success looks like in your organization and in turn costing you time, money, and frustration for other team members.

  1. The Demoralizing Employee

Otherwise known as a “Debbie-Downer”, the Demoralizing Employee has a negative attitude and impacts everyone around her.  Unlike the Bitter Employee, the reason for this employee’s negative demeanor isn’t always evident, but it still rubs off on her entire team.  This employee may make sly comments under her breath, huff and puff when asked to do things, or simply display a miserable attitude about her position in general.

The problem?  Negativity radiates and rubs off on your other employees.  In most cases, performance, engagement and productivity suffer amongst the entire team.

  1. The People Pleaser

The People Pleaser aims to keep everyone happy.  He never says no and seeks to please his supervisor and teammates by taking on any work thrown his way, accommodating their preferences and working late to meet deadlines.

The problem?  You simply can’t please everyone.  The people pleaser may experience burn-out quickly as he takes on more than he can chew.  Avoiding confrontation, the people pleaser may find himself doing double work, refraining from suggesting alternative and stronger solutions, and feeling frustrated when receiving conflicting messages from team members. The rest of the team experiences frustration when their deadlines aren’t met because The People Pleaser has taken on too much of a commitment.  In addition, when projects get drawn out through multiple iterations, resulting from individual preferences and opinions, time, money, and opportunity costs are all negatively impacted.

As you can see, each minor problem has a ripple effect in your organization.  It’s important to identify where your problems exist and develop appropriate solutions to drive for a highly functioning and engaged team.  Solutions include coaching the employee directly, offering team building opportunities that fit your organization’s culture and challenges, or, if necessary, eliminating a single problem that is having a larger impact that must be addressed for the good of the organization.