Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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A monopoly card of a man "getting the boot" with text "It's time"

Don’t be patient with a problem on your team

Maybe you can relate to this. We had a problem employee many years ago. One of his issues was his attitude with customers. He did not have the giving, forgiving, helpful attitude that many great customer service people naturally have. On top of this, he was controlling and bossy with his teammates, basically encouraging them to be more like him. He would berate people for doing too much for a customer, thinking that we should “not give it away for free.” His co-workers were coming to me to complain that they did not agree with how he wanted them to treat customers and that they were tired of being bullied.

I did nothing about it for way too long, then I tried to get him to change his attitude – subtly at first, then more directly. Nothing worked. In the end, I finally did what needed doing in the first place and fired him. He was just not fit for the job.

The results were immediate! With his poisonous and negative energy gone from the team, morale skyrocketed. The team was bursting with excitement and energy for days and my personal stress level went way down. I felt like the team saw me as a better leader for finally doing what needed to be done.

The overwhelming feelings I got from letting go of this problem staff member were:

  • Relief – as if a weight was lifted and the cloud hanging over us had passed.
  • Regret – that it took me too long to do it.  

Over the years, I have seen this situation repeat itself over and over, at my own company and elsewhere. Dealing with the problem employee seems so daunting at first so we delay it. Then, once done, the results are so positive that we beat ourselves up for not doing it sooner.

And we should do it sooner. Gallup research shows that the more people on a team who agree with the statement “my co-workers are committed to quality work,” the more likely that team is to be safer, better with customers, more productive, and less likely to quit. The same research also shows that having just one bad apple allowed to fester on a team can drag the whole team down and damage their performance. Other research concludes that people generally feel so strongly about it that they would willingly give up some of their pay and do more work if it meant being rid of a destructive teammate. It is no wonder that our workplace felt so much better after we finally did what needed doing all along!

Fortunately, we have a great team at IBEX, but if performance issues were to arise, they would be dealt with quickly and directly.  Sometimes all it takes is some caring feedback to solve the problem; sometimes job duties need to be adjusted or a change in team composition must be made. But when it becomes obvious that the issues cannot be solved without a termination, we should get it over with quickly for everyone’s benefit.