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Identify destructive employees

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in Office Politics,Workplace Communication

It is relatively simple to spot and deal with employees who demonstrate incompetence, poor work ethic and attitude problems. Their performance usually speaks for itself.

Significantly more challenging and frustrating are the people in your organization who appear to be productive but subtly undermine the performance of others. Rooting out these destructive employees will improve morale, attitude and results. Watch for these telltale signs of destructive employees:

  1. They care only about themselves. Destructive employees love to use the phrase “That’s not my job.” That selfish attitude breaks down teams and polarizes individuals.
  2. They rest on their laurels. Employees who expect a free ride based on past accomplishments fail to recognize that delivering value on a daily basis is the most important performance metric. This attitude is especially contagious and can affect whole departments if left unchecked.
  3. They undermine the outcomes of meetings. Nothing is more destructive than an employee who holds his or her tongue during an important meeting but then convenes a meeting after the meeting to complain about or tear down the deliverables everyone agreed to in the meeting prior. This behavior is demoralizing and turns teamwork into factional turf wars.
  4. They talk about other people. Gossip is not just counterproductive, it can lead to very real and very serious legal issues for your organization. Gossip is never harmless; it’s a form of harassment. Where there is gossip, destructive employees can usually be found at the source.
  5. They take credit for everything. Organizational successes are rarely the product of one person, but a destructive employee will be the first person to tell you otherwise. Rather than sharing the praise, destructive employees will make sure that everyone knows how important they were to securing the big sale or driving the early product release. Understandably, discord builds among the rest of the team as the real contributors feel slighted.
  6. They take blame for nothing. On the flip side, destructive employees will quickly back away from failures and deflect any blame for their role in the messes left behind. They shrug off criticism, constructive or otherwise, and they will always find someone else to blame.
  7. They put too much stock in experience. Destructive employees often assign undue value to the number of years they’ve been on the job instead of focusing on the value they contribute to the organization’s daily activities. Experience is important, but results are paramount.

— Adapted from “8 Qualities of Exceptionally Destructive Employees,” Jeff Haden, Inc. Magazine Owner’s Manual blog,

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