4 Ways to Spot a Problem Employee

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Identify Bad Employees Before They Become a Major Problem

Coworkers will occasionally have arguments. This is unavoidable and most of the time can be worked out with minimal effort. But if a formerly stellar employee is suddenly the subject of multiple complaints, and you hear his/her coworkers constantly grumbling, then you may have a problem employee.

As a business owner and/or manager, you work hard and spend a considerable amount of time and money on hiring the right people. Prior experience, references, and whether or not the person will fit into your company’s culture are all things that must be carefully examined. If you’re thorough and do your homework, chances are the person will likely work out.

But what happens six months, a year, or 5 years down the road when things take a turn for the worse?

Employees—especially those on the fast track—work hard to stand out and find ways to showcase their professional accomplishments to superiors. It’s easy for bosses to spot an employee working hard who possesses a positive attitude, unrelenting work ethic, and impressive achievements. But while these are obvious, it’s more difficult (but no less important) to spot the signs of an employee who has grown dissatisfied and complacent. Not only should you be on the lookout for these workers because of the turnover costs should they decide to leave, but also because allowing them to stay on the job when their hearts aren’t in it is a morale killer.


So here are five ways to spot an ineffective employee:

1. Your employee believes he/she is underpaid and deserves a promotion and/or raise? Fine. But there are right and wrong ways to ask for a salary bump.

Bringing up co-workers’ salaries and constantly announcing all the other companies offering you jobs is not the way to go about it. If your employee is consistently acting as if one foot is out the door, it might be time to give them the push completely out of the building.

2. Have your business meetings and brainstorming sessions become miserable?

It’s probably because you have that one worker who does nothing but points out the negatives and highlights the flaws in everyone else’s ideas—often in obnoxious fashion.


While it’s necessary to observe potential pitfalls in any plan, employees should be willing to offer solutions to every problem they point out. You want employees who can not only spot the negative but offer constructive criticism. Encouragement and positivity are essential for fostering innovative new ideas, and workers who do nothing but criticize can be poisonous to growth and success.


3. Outstanding employees are usually great problem-solvers.

The most successful people are normally the ones who work towards a solution at all costs, never for a moment considering the issue they’ve been tasked with is impossible or can’t be done.


So if you have an employee who is dismissing new ideas out of hand and saying “I can’t do that” or “That’s impossible” without even really considering it first, consider that a major red flag. This isn’t to say a cautious voice of reason isn’t valuable. It is. But you want employees who overcome obstacles or find a way around them. Someone who gives up without even trying is just going to drag everyone else down, so schedule a one-on-one with the employee in question and see if you can get to the root of the problem.

4. Coworkers will occasionally have arguments…

Sometimes they’ll rise to the level of human resources having to get involved. This is unavoidable and most of the time can be worked out with minimal effort. But if a formerly stellar employee is suddenly the subject of multiple complaints and you hear his/her coworkers constantly grumbling, then something might be amiss.

Your employees are your eyes and ears, so as long as you can count on one or two of them to give you an honest assessment of the situation, use that inside information to identify the problem and ultimately aim to fix it one way or the other.

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