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While businesses and owner-managers are fighting tooth and nail in an increasingly difficult economy (and worsening), they would need to put everything under the microscope to see how best to move their businesses forward, even if painfully.

Let’s face it, we are facing difficult times ahead. The economy is no longer a simple microscopic depression, but one that baffles even governments, states, and even regional economies. Every peg in the machinery of a business, becomes critical to moving the entire business forward. Even one weak or dysfunctional peg, can slow a business down to oblivion and destruction.

I was reading an interesting article by Ms Janine Popick, CEO of Vertical Response, in INC Magazine’s website (one of the best business magazines I would recommend), on what she defined as “poison employees”.

She briefly described 3 types of employees that would drag a business down, (1) those who whine, (2) those who gossip, and (3), those who hide.

I concur with Ms Popick in her incisive insights in the article. And there are more. As a fellow owner-manager and also, a human resource development (HRD) practitioner since the late 1980s, let me elaborate on her insights, and add some others.

First, there are those who complain all the time. Some of these employees simply complain as a means to let off steam, which can be understandable. Some others may have more deep-rooted problems that may, or may not be able to be resolved through counseling and discussion. Those who mean to simply let off steam, however, may invariably jeopardize others in their work environment and reduce overall team morale, which then becomes a bad thing. With the onslaught of social media and blogging, some employees may even let off steam online, not realizing the potentially viral power of their messages online, and invariably cause damage to the reputation of the businesses they work for, and their own personal reputation. After all, it is difficult to erase published messages online, and those may come back to haunt the very people who innocently (or otherwise) posted complaints online. Some may even become bigger legal issues to contend with. Is it worth the rant for employees who more often than not, simply want a steadily growing career path in life? And for the businesses, if an open communication is maintained with employees, then owner-managers should make clear to employees that all issues should be resolved directly, and malice, however innocent, is not something to be taken lightly, since complaints will always bite both ways and have greater repercussions that one may realize.

Second, those who gossip can be a real legal time bomb. Many businesses would have employees or associates sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which are very specific in information and distribution. However, some employees are naturally gossipy and may invariably mention confidential information to friends and families, and cause such information to leaked to the media, or other people who should have no privy to such information. While those who gossip may consider it harmless, the harm is much greater than they can imagine, and may have serious legal and financial implications for the stakeholders, including lawsuits, criminal cases, and big financial payouts. Therefore, businesses must educate all employees and associates on the importance of non-disclosure, and what are the implications for information leakage, and that those who choose to gossip, will be summarily dealt with, no exceptions.

Third, those who hide away can become a real drag to team and business productivity, because the rest of the team mates would have to carry the bulk of the work. In many businesses, where there is increasing “microcosmized” (what I consider a decentralizing of decision-making and task completion), there is less segmentation of tasks, and everyone in the small teams have to do a lot more in a distributed work environment. When someone lazes about, the rest of the team will feel the pressure immediately. Therefore, for supervisors and leaders, such behavior cannot be condoned and must be counseled, and subsequent action be swift and decisive so that everyone knows the importance of working together in teams and cooperating well with one another. Leaders should set clear goals and targets, and also, measure each person based on how much self-empowerment and self-learning an employee takes on. Those who are told to do just one thing, but takes the initiative to learn another, and then offer to help out to do another task, should be recognized and rewarded more than those who simply moves an inch when you tell them to move an inch. No one who is drawing remuneration is exempt from work, and those who do not work, deserve no remuneration and no employment.

Fourth, there are some who are too calculative. Many HR recruiters have seen young upstarts who would demand much more remuneration and benefits than they qualify for, or are proven for. I have also seen some people demanding that they would only do particular tasks, and would not want to put in extra effort for the collective team efforts, whether in additional work hours or tasks. The trouble is that such people create a negative atmosphere at work, invariably causing others in the team to feel that perhaps they should not bother to help each other too. Therefore, such calculative people should be isolated and rooted out, and allow the team to see that collaborative efforts and an open mind and heart are desired attributes. It is truly a collective effort these days, and that all of us are like team mates on a football game, or rowers in a dragon boat competition. We move in the same direction, utilizing all of our might and minds, together.

Fifth, there are some who are prima donnas. Prima donnas are great in singular environments where they are supposed to shine to their utmost. For example, if you are a solo singer, you are to be brilliant, because you would do everyone justice simply by being your best. But in a typical environment, even the most brilliant minds and the most talented hands, have to play well together in a team, and not step over or crush others in a team for one’s own glory. Prima donnas who roughshod others in a work place, are to be pulled aside and counseled and rebuked, and reminded that team work is valued above all else. If such prima donnas continue to roughshod others, it is wiser for a leader to let go such an employee rather than to create resentment and dissent among the rest of the team. No one is an island at the work place, and even the best need others to bring forth brilliance.

There is no better time, than the roughest of moments as we ride the depressing economic times ahead, than to be a positive and contributing part of a greater team, to cheer our team mates on together, to fight together, to learn new things together, to grow together, to survive together, and to thrive together. And may the best team win.