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When one person’s bad behavior hijacks your company

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Let's pretend you have a long-tenured employee who is beloved by your customers, is a top-line performer and is respected in your industry for technical competencies. It sounds like the perfect employee, but there is more to the story.

Unfortunately, this employee's demeanor inside the company is disruptive and destructive, causing a high level of frustration and distrust among other employees. And, everyone is afraid to talk directly to the boss about the situation.

This scenario is more common than we care to admit. Often, the boss isn't aware of the problems that his or her “star” employee is creating until there is an unexplainable dip in individual, team and company-wide performance.

These unexplainable dips happen when employees fear repercussions for voicing their opinions and concerns, feel they are not valued, lose trust in their boss or feel that conditions or circumstances will never change.

Bad behavior from one single employee can not only disrupt a company, it can destroy it. Left unaddressed, bad behavior can tear apart the very fabric of an organization's culture and send your top-performing employees, customers and vendors elsewhere.

Take a good look around your organization.

Do you have an employee who is consistently rude and demeaning to co-workers, undermines new initiatives or programs, puts unrealistic expectations or demands on those who support his/her work, doesn't communicate the details needed for people to get their work done or lacks follow-through with work promised?

Before you can take action, it's important to face the facts and accept the reality that there is a problem. We shut out or avoid dealing with these situations because of our fears of confrontation and possible termination.

Confronting the individual:

Will I say the right things?

What will he or she say?

He's been here a very long time and knows a lot about the company.

Has he, or will he, talk badly about the company?

If I have to terminate him, will he be able to find other work? I don't want to put anyone out of a job.

If termination is the only solution:

Will I be able to find a replacement?

Will the team be able to step up?

Will customers leave when their favorite person in the company is gone?

It may not be necessary to terminate an employee who demonstrates bad behaviors. But, it is critical to find out why the behavior exists.

Is it a result of something that can be corrected, or has it been building for a long time?

Once you've determined the origin, take steps to improve the situation – immediately. Time will not make it better without a remedy.

If you have taken steps to ensure that your company is not too reliant on any one individual, regardless of their position or tenure, it will be nearly impossible for one person's bad behavior to bring the company to its knees.

Your company's mission, vision, culture and core values are the foundation for how well your employees know where the company is headed and why.

And, every person on the payroll needs to feel valued and empowered to be able to do his or her job, and know that he or she has a voice in the company.

It sounds simple.

We provide job descriptions, project details, process and procedure manuals and other complimentary tools to help employees perform their tasks. Then we “tell” them what to do, instead of “asking” for input on how they might accomplish the tasks and meet their goals.

At the moment of “telling,” we have reduced their value and removed their authority. What's now clear is who is in control of their output. And, it's not they.

When employees are truly in control of the work they produce, they are less likely to allow a fellow employee with bad behaviors to influence or compromise the workplace. They are more likely to find the courage to talk to the boss about the situation.

If you honor their courage by taking action to resolve bad behaviors, trust will be built – and sustainable achievements of individual, team and company goals will be easier to accomplish.

Bonnie Sussman-Versace – business leader, entrepreneur and principal of Focused LLC in Wyomissing – is dedicated to developing leaders, enhancing cultures and improving performance for business growth and prosperity. She can be reached at bversace@focusedllc.net or 610-301-2194.

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