ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

TOXIC EMPLOYEES

When it’s Time to Let Someone Go

God bless the horrible employee!

God bless the horrible employee! If you have someone who underperforms, doesn’t show up on time, and has unfortunate accidents and commitments that call them away from work on Fridays and Mondays their longevity is simply a testament to your level of frustration. The higher the level, the more likely they are to be terminated for cause.

But the real problems in your business are the recalcitrant employees who do just enough to avoid termination. They are toxic to you, to your other employees, to your carriers and clients and to your business overall. We tend to keep these folks employed far too long, as long as they don’t commit an egregious act.

Toxic employees don’t commit acts that will get them fired. But they poison the well, and make all others around them (including the owners) feel less good about the business. When you can identify the toxic employee you must act quickly to eliminate the problem or the wound will fester and cause many more difficulties for you and for your organization.

How can you tell when an employee turns “toxic”?

These are the folks who quietly listen to whatever you say or ask – and then do the opposite or nothing at all, assuming that you will forget what you asked for or move to another subject in short order.

The problem employee will say nothing to you but will certainly air their grievances to their fellow employees, to their families at home, and sometimes to your clients in casual conversation. Some of us have even been the recipients of commiseration by employees, clients and others after the departure of these troublemakers. Our “friends” wonder why we let the offensive employee get away with as much as they did for as long as we did. Yet they never told us of the problems as they were occurring...

Earn our living every day

While you and I earn our living every day and have to prove ourselves to our clients and carriers over and over again, the troublemakers among your staff act like their experience justifies their ability to complain – that they’ve paid their dues. This is a clear indication of a toxic employee. We must remind all that dues are paid every day for as long as we live. We can never rest on our laurels and expect the world to revolve around us.

Another indication of a toxic employee is when you see a good employee start to slip. Look carefully at the relationships they have with your experienced staff. In all likelihood the attitude deterioration of a younger employee is being caused by peer pressure from others who would look less than stellar if any other employee performed at levels well above that of the experienced person.

Yet another indication is to look for the person who is quick to share credit for successes as a team but will shed responsibility for any jobs not well done. Toxic employees are as slippery as eels and will avoid involvement in anything that doesn’t shine a light on their star.

As difficult as it is

As difficult as it is, the only way to deal with a toxic employee is to terminate. If you try to speak to them and rehabilitate them they look at your attitude as a sign of weakness, not as a magnanimous gesture to retain a good employee. The question you must ask yourself is whether you would be better off retaining someone that you cannot trust or cutting the cord. Unfortunately, you won’t find out until your other staff thanks you ---- after the fact.