Mike is as close to the perfect employee as you could possibly get. He's always at work 15 minutes before his shift started. He's productive, helpful toward colleagues and clients, uses his initiative, and often comes up with creative solutions to problems on the shop floor. Doing odd jobs that aren't part of his job description is never an issue for him.
Lately, though, things aren't as they used to be. Mike now has an attitude like a rebellious teenager, and he doesn't do his work to the required standard. He went on leave last week, giving you the chance to have a long, hard look at all his cash transactions for the last six months. What you've just seen is not good and you're almost in a state of disbelief: has your star employee really committed fraud?
Many of us have probably experienced an internal battle between good and bad, right and wrong. You may have been in a situation where you were tempted to be "bad." But, although the temptation was there, you decided not to do it because you didn't want to ruin your reputation or career. So why, then, do some good employees go bad?
During our latest #MTtalk Twitter chat, held on Friday (August 5, 2016), we wanted to know why good employees go bad.
Q1. What do you understand by the phrase "going bad" as we're using it in this chat?
@JulieMRodriguez: When an employee goes bad, their behavior has turned negative, even if metrics have not, and they've become a cancer to the team.
@Liz: When you thought you could trust someone and then suddenly they behave in an unprincipled way.
@WayneWWhitehead: Does not support vision or goals of organization and becomes a negative, high maintenance person.
Q2. What's the worst example of "going bad" that you've ever had to deal with?
@Dwyka_Consult: As previous HR manager I've seen a lot. Worst: an employee breaking and entering, stealing money. (Caught on camera)
@amypen64: Myself: Management change, not a good fit, coworker who played not worked.
Q3. What distinction do you make between someone making mistakes and someone "going bad?"
@balakayeee: People who make mistakes can typically learn. People who are "going bad" are spiraling out of control.
@harrisonia: "To err is human..." To keep making mistakes and losing motivation to do the right thing is when someone is "going bad."
Many people seem to realize that a good person going bad is often not about the work only.
Q4. What could cause someone to become a bad apple?
@TwisterKW: Feelings/perceptions of unappreciated, not recognized, not rewarded. Or unrelated personal circumstances.
@eburdge: People's unexamined/unresolved personal issues manifest themselves in toxic thoughts and actions. It's not only about the work.
Q5. What are some warning signs that suggest a good employee is "going bad?"
@Singh_Vandana: If a star performer becomes silent, stops communicating: 1st signal.
@risktakermdu: They will not do or complete tasks on time; not showing up for work or appointments.
@MicheleDD_MT: Lots of noise with relationships - conflict, loss of customers. Arrogance.
Many participants alluded to the same issues, but sometimes it's all about knowing your employees well coupled with the power of observation.
Q6. Can you guard against bad apples at recruitment or can this happen to anyone?
@balakayeee: Bad apples are both recruited and fostered in organizations. Therefore you can prepare but not prevent.
One of our participants has quite a controversial view on bad apples:
@Ganesh_Sabari: Bad apples are a mere reflection of bad soil - the management!
Q7. How can an organization's culture cause a good employee to "go bad?"
@ankitapoddar: Not trusting its employees, excessive bureaucracy, focusing on competition vs. collaboration.
@limha75: Lack of supervision and peer support; lack of opportunities to play to people's strengths; hoping issues will resolve themselves.
Q8. What strategies can an organization put in place in order to encourage positive behavior?
@SayItForwardNow: Clear and well-communicated policies, procedures AND articulation of what happens when they are not followed.
@dreamydoodle: Give team members a sense of belonging; s/he should believe that it is his/her company.
Repairing reputation is not the easiest thing to do but, according to our participants, it's definitely possible.
Q9. How can an employee repair their reputation after it has been damaged?
@Midgie_MT: Repairing reputation can be tough, yet consistent efforts to demonstrate that they have 'mended their ways' might help.
@amypen64: For me I could not repair it. It was time to go. Happily I landed in a better place.
Thanks for sharing with us so honestly, Amy!
Q10. If an employee gets a second chance, how can you best support them?
@temekoruns: Speak optimistically about them in front of others with a defense of all the good that they have done.
@eburdge: Work with the second chancer to set short-term goals toward the desired long-term outcome with accountability and support.
And if push comes to shove...
@Yolande_MT: Don't be a hypocrite. If someone doesn't deserve a second chance, let them go. Maybe that's the wake-up call they need.
Should a good employee gone bad get a second chance? Please vote on our Twitter Poll - Good Employees Gone Bad.
Since you started working in your department, three people have left and they haven't been replaced. You and two other colleagues have absorbed their duties. Your boss doesn't like it if you're not reachable, so you're online every day, even when you're on holiday. At the same time, you also have the pressure of making ends meet, spending enough time with your loved ones, and trying to keep fit.
The topic on August 19, 2016 is "Overworked and Overwhelmed." As always, it will take place at 1 p.m. EST (6 p.m. BST). We’d love you to join us on Twitter to share your thoughts, ideas and coping mechanisms.
To participate in the chat, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on "All Tweets" and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. To join the conversation, simply include #MTtalk in your tweet and it will show up in the feed.
In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about good employees going bad, have a look at the following resources:
They fly around saving the world - and offer real lessons in leadership. Discover 8 superhero lessons in being a good leader.
"A story never ends because it changes who we are, how we think, what we do. Its threads and impact continue to grow in ways we know, and don't know." - Yolandé Conradie
Some transitions are harder to face than others. The Mind Tools coaches share their experiences of going through transitions, and their tips on how to deal with change.