Employees from hell

The current issue of Fortune Small Business contains a fascinating cover story of ’employees from hell’ who’ve wreaked havoc on their employers. There’s everything from a drunk forklift driver who smashes walls and parties with hookers to a Benedict Arnold-like sales manager who tries to steal every one of the firm’s clients and employees away from the owner.

The article got me thinking about some of the real gems we’ve hired over the years, including:

– one disenchanted employee who conducted her job interviews right over the phone in her cube

– a senior executive who, after negotiating a partnership package with us for months, turned around and quit right after we made the announcement.

– a middle manager who allegedly ‘lost’ her laptop in Port Authority right after we’d fired her

– a management supervisor who went postal in a new business pitch and screamed at the prospect, ‘Look this is war and if you have to carve out the guts of your competitors, you carve out their guts!’

– an account executive who, after less than three months in the job, came into my office and told me it was ‘time to renegotiate his compensation package.’

Truth be told, most of these ’employees from hell’ worked for us during the dotcom heydays. That said, with the significant uptick in the economy, I have noticed a new sense of entitlement and boorish behavior just starting to once again rear its ugly head.

Prospective employees know the marketplace is red hot again and more than one has reneged on an offer at the last second to accept a more lucrative package from someone else. Others have been last-second no-shows for scheduled interviews. Not good.

There will always be employees from hell. And, while we all do our best to weed them out in advance, some do get hired. And those who are unhappy, divisive or disinegenuous eventually leave or are asked to leave. In each and every case, though, it’s their image and reputation that’s been damaged. Not the employer’s.

So a word to the wise, but angry, employee: leave before you do damage that will only end up hurting you in the long run. Meanwhile ‘caveat emptor’ should remain the watchword of small business owners everywhere.

5 thoughts on “Employees from hell

  1. The late, great business genius, Alex Madonna, shared with me several lessons on good business practices. His most important piece of advice was to never give an employee a second chance at repeating his first big mistake. We all know what kind of big mistake that could be: being disrespectful, cursing at you, stealing, breaking company rules, instigating problems, etc. Mr. Madonna looked into my eyes and as if remembering a past bad experience, he whispered “An employee will repeat mistakes over and over only to get bigger and bigger and I (the employer) have allowed it to happen.” Soon it becomes a pattern, you (the employer) are too nice, hence you are weak. In the past, I have tried nice and forgiving, screw that. As employers and small business owners, listen to your gut feeling, take no prisoners, let them go on their first mistake.If you keep them, you will be giving them permission to become repeat offenders and setting you up for nothing but grief. Trust me, There have been times which I regret not listening to Mr. Madonna, whom I miss with all my heart and soul.

  2. Yah, those are horrible employees. Almost as bad as when the boss cut my colleague’s 2% pay hike to 1% and raised mine from 2% to 3%, then expressed shock at my ingratitude when he told me what length’s he’d gone to to keep me happy. Do I need to mention I was being paid 60% of my colleague’s wage (same job) so the boss was actually saving money? Needless to say, I immediately told my colleague why he got stiffed on his raise. What an a**hole I am.

  3. Then there was that 14 year old employee who came in and slept on your couch all day… He had management material written all over him huh?

  4. Good post Rep, but I disagree with you on one point. Those employees from hell are sometimes in a position where they are managing others. At that point they become the bosses from hell. Having recently survived a serious boss from hell, who prompted me to quit a new job after only 5 months, I will tell you that they do hurt the employer’s reputation.