Practical Guide to Spotting Risky Employees

Risky Employees Can Hurt Company Culture

Hiring is always a tricky situation. Unless the candidate is a friend, HR must take a lot on faith alone. There are definite red flags during the hiring process that present themselves and help HR spot risky employees. But what if there are no flags? Can the organization be confident that the employee is a beneficial addition to the team? Not always.

In fact, someone may look great on paper, sound great during the interview and even perform well in the first couple of months. However, after the honeymoon phase is over, the “risky” employee may emerge out of the blue and wreak havoc on office morale and the overall company culture.

Difficult Behaviors

Once an employee “gets comfortable”, an alter ego may just emerge that isn’t so nice and productive. Difficult employees usually start their challenging behavior in innocent ways (e.g. harmless gossip in the lunchroom, letting others know they are in a “bad mood” today), but if allowed to go unchecked, these bad behaviors might just spiral out of control.

Watch out for and note when an employee begins to show the following warning signs:

  • Plays the blame game – it is always someone else’s mistake, they are never accountable for their actions
  • Is two-faced – acts accommodating, receptive and team oriented in a group setting, but is the first one to criticize and ridicule others and/or an idea when they are one on one with another worker
  • Becomes unpredictable/moody – is extra sensitive to the options of others to the point coworkers feel like they are “walking on eggshells” — constantly on guard for defensive reactions

These are examples of personality shortcomings that may just be the true nature of the employee. However, life’s difficulties (e.g. marital problems, financial difficulties) may be the source of the difficult behavior(s). In that case, getting to the heart of the matter in a non-threatening, private meeting is the best course of action. It may just take pointing out the difficult behavior(s), asking them to stop and showing compassion for the challenges in their personal lives to turn an employee around.

But when the employee starts exhibiting more serious signs (e.g. missing work, making obvious mistakes, exhibiting violent mood swings), the reason may be due to substance abuse/addiction issues. This is where the employee becomes the riskiest, not only to themselves, but everyone working with them.

Substance Abuse

As discussed in a three-part blog series on Why You Should Care About Substance Abuse at Work, an employee who is “using” is a risk to:

  1. Themselves
  2. Coworkers
  3. The Organization as a whole

Serious consideration must be taken when spotting risky employees exhibiting drug addiction of any kind. It should never be treated as a private “personal problem”. Substance abuse at work WILL affect the safety and livelihood of all if not properly handled.

Everyone is Responsible

Make no mistake, difficult employees will become toxic employees if left alone, avoided or coddled. It is up to all employees, managers and peers alike, to protect the company culture. HR must be open to input from coworkers, document the bad behavior and address it head on with the offenders. If not, the difficult or addicted employees will harm a workplace’s safety, effectiveness and culture.

Learn About the Red Flags to Identify Risky Employees

Tim’s HR-related topics can help any organization understand the warning signs presented by employees and the steps needed to nurture a positive workplace environment beneficial for all. Contact Tim to schedule Can You Spot Risky Employees today!

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