Bad Employee, Worse Manager

Bad Employee, Worse Manager
November 12, 2012 Anne Wade

We all make bad decisions from time to time; it’s human nature and no one is perfect. No matter how hard we try, sometimes things just go south. But there is a real difference between a manager making an occasional bad decision and he/she developing a pattern of bad decision-making. Chronic bad decision-making ultimately puts your organization at risk.

One of the more common examples of poor managerial decision-making comes with dealing with problem employees. The reality is that not every employee performs superior work. While it isn’t effective to fire any and everyone who doesn’t always meet expectations, your company’s bottom line is at stake when keeping an inefficient or ineffective employee on the payroll. Here are some common red flags for bad employees.

Warning Signs 

Doesn’t meet deadlines                                              Poor team player

Doesn’t produce quality work                                                Has an “attitude and makes excuses

Subject of employee or customer complaints             Needs to be continually managed

 Is frequently absent

Examine below the actions of an employee and his manager over the course of a year.*


Employee Action                                                                    Manager’s Decisions

Employee singles out one specific coworker and repeatedly, in public and to her face, calls her “Stupid.”“Stupid” confronts the Employee. When the behavior continues, she schedules a meeting with her Manager and asks for intervention. Manager tells “Stupid” that he knows the Employee can be a little difficult, he doesn’t really mean it. Suggests she take the high road and find ways to bridge the gaps.
Employee delays production of “Stupid’s” project saying “it’s not high priority.” Tells “Stupid” not to expect completion for 2 months, adding 8 weeks to due date. “Stupid” asks manger for intervention. Manager says it’s her job to manage the project.
Employee fails to manage the quality of Stupid’s project, rendering it unusable. Project has to be redone and doubles costs Manager says nothing to Employee andapproves extra expenses.
Employee tells a vendor that “Stupid” is getting lazy with her production standards Manager disregards rumors that vendor is thinking about canceling contract fearing inferior quality
“Stupid” learns of vendor concerns. Goes to Manager and says she can’t handle it anymore. Manager tells “Stupid” that he realizes the Employee is difficult but doesn’t want to fire him because he’s cheap and it would be more expensive to hire someone with better qualifications


* Assumption: company is small with no dedicated HR manager.

Who do you think is actually the “stupid” one in this situation? Even though the bad employee was out of control, the bad (if not worse) manager allowed the bad behavior to continue by handling the situation so poorly.

It can often be difficult and uncomfortable for managers when addressing the issue of a bad employee; however, this scenario shows poor decision making from the start. This manger makes decisions in a vacuum clouded by conditions that override sound judgment. His actions not only violate basic HR principles but bring into question the quality of his decision-making across multiple management functions. And by knowingly allowing this bad employee’s behavior to continue, the manager knowingly allows the company to suffer as a result.

Can your firm afford this type of decision-making? How can you avoid it, not just in an HR capacity, but across all disciplines and all departments? Here are just a few tools you may want to consider: a decision wellness survey, workshop and/or training program on decision analysis, styles and approaches or leadership training.

Timing and opportunity may prove to be a challenge to coordinate but, in my experience, it’s well worth the effort.




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