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How to Handle Bad Employees

You’ve probably heard the saying, “There’s a bad apple in every bushel.” You don’t want this to be true when it comes to your small business, but it probably will be at one point or another. It’s an inevitable part of life. No matter how thoroughly you vet your employees before hiring, you’ll eventually come across one that slips through and is simply a bad apple.

In many cases, small business owners become hostages to these bad employees. They spend too much time, energy and thought on what these employees are doing to their company before finally deciding to just let them go. Most don’t realize there are many other options and paths to take.

If you’re dealing with an employee that is hurting your business’s profits, dragging down his fellow co-workers and making your life difficult, here are a few steps to take before you do anything drastic.


When you’re frustrated and feeling like there’s nothing you can do to fix an employee, it can often be hard to stop and figure out what’s really going on with them. If you don’t understand the situation from the bad employee’s point of view, though, you’ll never be able to fix it. Set them down and really hear them out. Perhaps they’re just having a hard time separating their personal life from their work life. If this is the case, you may be able to offer them advice on how to do this. Maybe they aren’t feeling fulfilled with their current job duties and need more challenging tasks to keep them from becoming bored. Take steps to fix the situation so they can be an active and happy member of your team again.

Give Clear Feedback

Complaining about a bad employee does little more than take up time and waste energy. If you want something to change, you’ve got to be clear about what you expect from them. They may not know what they are doing wrong. It’s up to you to give them insight into their current situation and how it’s affecting your business and the team, then let them know what they can do to make it better.

Document it All

If you’re having trouble with an employee, be sure to write down everything you witness and experience. There may come a time when you have to let them go, and without proper documentation, you open yourself up to a lawsuit. Keep a record of everything.

Don’t Ignore It

No one likes confrontation, but that doesn’t mean you should continue to let one bad employee wreak havoc on your business simply to avoid it. As soon as you recognize that the worker is affecting your business, talk to them. Don’t let the situation drag on in the hope that it will resolve itself.

Stay Professional

You’re a good employer, and you have great personal relationships with your employees. Maybe they invite you over for dinner or backyard barbecues. Maybe you knew exactly what to get your secret Santa at last year’s company Christmas party. When it comes to keeping your business afloat, these relationships can’t play a role in your decision. It may sound harsh, but you need to remember that you’re a small business owner who has hired an employee to do a specific job, and do it well. When addressing issues, don’t come at them like a friend, but as a polite and professional boss.

Be Consistent

There’s nothing more frustrating and confusing for an employee than an employer who is inconsistent in what he wants. If you say you don’t like certain behaviors, don’t let them happen for some employees but not others. Don’t be upset one time if an invoice is late, but not upset when the same thing happens the next month. Be consistent so your employees know what to expect.

Let Them Know the Consequences

The best thing to do when talking to an employee about their unacceptable behavior is to give them specifics. Set a timeline for them, providing an appropriate amount of time for them to start making changes in their behavior or attitude. Then clearly spell out what will happen if they don’t make those changes within the timeline you have allowed. These types of employees need to know what the consequences of their actions will be; it may be the only thing that motivates them to make better decisions.

Don’t Bad-Mouth

Gossiping with employees isn’t the solution to anything, and it can actually hurt your team even more than just having a bad employee. If you begin bad-mouthing a bad employee, his co-workers will not only begin to distrust him, but you as well. They’ll begin to wonder if you talk about them behind their backs as well. This only leads to a polluted environment full of back-stabbing and distrust.

Stay as Positive as Possible

Don’t immediately give up on problem employees simply because you don’t see changes a minute after meeting with them. Give them some time to work through their issues and help them address the ones you can. Stay as positive as possible and support them. If you notice they are trying, even in little ways, recognize it and let them know you notice. This might inspire them to make even more changes.

Know When it’s Time to Terminate

While some problem employees simply need a little TLC to get back on the right track, others may just not be cut out for your company. If you’ve taken every step possible to fix the situation and no changes have been made, make the tough decision to let them go. It may not be fun, but it’s sometimes what is best for your company. Bad employees can drag the rest of your employees down, ruining productivity and destroying the positive attitude you’ve tried so hard to instill.

Having trouble with a problem employee? Don’t let one bad apple ruin your next rehab job or renovation. Use these tips to help the employee make a change for the better so they become a productive member of your team.


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