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10 Warning Signs of a Bad Employee

Think your new (or old) hire could be turning into more of a bad decision? There are certain telltale signs that’ll clue you in to when your employee’s just got to go. Check out these 10 warning signs of a bad employee.

By Leila ParkerPublished 6 years ago 6 min read

You never want to really see an employee go. After all, you’ve put time, effort and money into the hiring process, as well as their career development, and would prefer to keep every team member for as long as it remains profitable. However, if there’s a certain individual who’s sticking out from everyone else as the weakest link, it might be time to reevaluate their position. You probably already have your hunches, but if you need a little extra reassurance, here are some warning signs of a bad employee, who may need to be let go sooner rather than later.

Can’t Quite Fit the Work Environment

One thing that’s becoming more and more important in the work environment is your company’s culture. What is the general vibe that your office gives off? How do your employees get along? How do they socialize? The better a work environment feels to everyone else on the team, the more productive and profitable a team can be. However, if you’ve got that one employee who just can’t seem to fit in, or, even worse, is making little to no effort to fit in, you have an outlier that could cause you problems and profitability in the long run. Could this be the warning signs of a bad employee? While it may not be a complete deal breaker, it’s definitely something to pay attention to.

Leaves Early… Every Day

Do you have an employee who not only leaves early every once in a while or every Friday… but every single day? They might just be that bad apple that’s rotten to the core. If you have an employee who’s not doing enough to keep their salary, it’s likely time to cut them. However, this is a delicate situation. If your employee is, in fact, earning their keep and can still leave early, maybe let it slide. But if their frequent early departures are costing you productivity, consider having a long talk with them and maybe even mark it down as one of the warning signs of a bad employee.

Emotional Issues

Everyone has bad days at work on occasion. While it’s unprofessional, some or even most of us have had to duck into the bathroom to hide a few tears at the office. When you spend so much time in one place, dealing with highly stressful situations, emotions can run high. However, there should never be one singular employee that’s making everything more emotional for everyone, or who is showing their wide range of emotions far too often. It might be a sign of a bad employee if you have an individual who continuously cries at their desk, yells, even screams, gives others a cold shoulder or gets irrationally angry.

Not Quite the Truth

If one thing matters in the boss-employee relationship, it’s transparency and honesty. Do you suspect one of your employees isn’t quite being honest with you? Some are extremely talented at twisting their words so that they’re not quite lying… but they’re not quite telling the truth either. Watch out for those who are bending the truth to fit their needs or even blatantly lying to make themselves look good. This kind of behavior is toxic and one of the top warning signs of a bad employee.

A Little High… On Themselves

Confidence and swagger are good characteristics to have in an employee, particularly in certain roles, but too much pride comes before the fall. An employee who thinks they’re better than everyone else, who constantly looks down on their colleagues and acts arrogantly in every situation can only lower morale and can be very difficult to work with. Save your other employees some grief and see if you can’t ask that certain employee to tone it down a notch. If not, it might just be time to reconsider their employment. You don’t want necessarily meek and mild, but a healthy dose of realism is important, especially since it’s optimal to keep employees who are continuously looking for opportunities to grow, learn and improve.

Loose Lips

Loose lips sink ships… and companies. While office gossip is commonplace, some employees take it a little too far and you'll need to figure out what to do about office gossip. Likewise, other team members just love to complain. Both can be toxic if left to run wild. Make it known that you won’t take such negativity in the office. If left to fester, that one overly negative and catty employee can spread their mood around to the rest of their department, until you have not one, but several who are constantly gossiping and complaining about the rest of their colleagues, the company itself, and even you! This will leave you with the task of reviving a toxic work culture.

The Clients Don’t Like Them

Hands-down signs of a bad employee? Your clients and customers are requesting not to work with them or be served by them. In that case, there’s really no better way to go than with a brief “we’re letting you go” meeting. The only circumstance in which you might reconsider keeping on this employee, would be if the client in question is notoriously bad to work with. If others have complained about this client, it might not be your employee’s fault, but if others find the client to be more than okay, it’s likely your employee’s problem and they need to go.

One Foot Out the Door

So maybe your problem employee wants a salary raise. Maybe they somewhat deserve one. However, if they’re constantly acting like they’re not getting paid enough, bringing up industry salary averages in mixed company, throwing out little jabs about being offered jobs elsewhere or looking at job openings online, they’re already acting like they have one foot out the door, whether they really do or not. Go ahead and give them a little nudge. They may find that they’re not so ready to leave after all, or you might just spur them on to more toxic activity, in which case it’s time to let them go, quickly.

“It’s Not My Job”

Hear that phrase a bit too often (or at all)? True signs of a bad employee include a complete unwillingness to do anything outside of a job description and a continuous refusal to pitch in where needed. In many businesses, employees are expected to carry weight in other departments and help out as their talents are required. If you have an employee who just can’t grasp this aspect of teamwork, are they really benefiting you that much? If they have talents elsewhere, maybe consider keeping them on as a contract worker or freelancer, but don’t keep them on your team for long.

Not Keeping Up with Everyone Else

You have certain productivity standards in your company because you know what it takes to be profitable. If you have one employee who just can’t seem to stay as productive as everyone else, give the issue a good look. Do they need more training or are they just lazy? If it’s the first, by no means fire them. Give them the resources they need to excel or offer them life hacks to increase productivity at work. However, if you’ve given someone all the resources necessary and they still can’t keep up with the rest of the pack, something is wrong, whether they admit it or not.


About the Creator

Leila Parker

Newly graduated Industrial-Organizational Psychologist. I'm a cyclist who works, thinks and writes about workplace culture, behavior and self-motivation.

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