Have you ever had a team member who went on vacation and the rest of the team seemed to work better with them gone? Do you have someone in your office who blatantly disrespects coworkers and leadership in your organization? Is there an individual who seems to be actively working against the positive company culture you and the rest of the team are striving toward? If you answer yes to any of these questions it is probably time for you to step up as a leader. There is a lot to be said of cool-headedness and leniency when it comes to responding to mistakes made by a member of your team, but you must establish bold lines that protect your vision and the health of the group as a whole from individuals who threaten the goals your organization is striving to achieve. There will inevitably be times when an effective leader must lead a team member out of the door in the best interest of team integrity and dynamics. If you have an individual exhibit any of the following it is probably time to cut your losses and move on separately.
Denigrating Coworkers: An employee who belittles and degrades others on your team makes a huge negative impact on productivity and corporate morale over time. People will fear sharing their ideas and solutions due to fear that they will be derided and shot down by the individual who uses their quick-witted insults and zingers to bully others in order to make themselves look smarter and more interesting. In today’s business world it is crucial to have an open environment for trading ideas and a team member who denigrates others will completely shut down the potential for problem solving and thought sharing.
Open Refusal of Critical Work: If I’m being completely honest, I have let some team members off of the hook if they let me know that they aren’t comfortable with a project that I have assigned them. I’ll do this because after they bring up the subject, I realize that they aren’t properly equipped or may not possess the right skill set to do what I’ve asked of them. I would rather have someone be honest and let me know that they don’t feel that they can complete the task than bring me a shoddy product due to not speaking up about their weaknesses. I do have a problem when an individual blatantly refuses to do work in order to make a point or simply test the system, and so should you.
Actively Undermining Leadership/Other Team Members: Our team recently had a bit of a fire drill concerning a sales presentation. One of our presenters had received their presentation from another sales rep who had built it very late and in poor condition. The thing had multiple misspellings, irrelevant content, and was formatted terribly. The presenter sent the presentation back to me in a panic and asked for help. I never like to have last-minute emergencies like this one, but we had to make sure that the presentation went well and I thought that it would be interesting to see how my support team responds to such circumstances so I got everyone together and assigned each person a task to reformat and proof the presentation. These types of situations bring out both the best and worst in people and this one did not disappoint. Most of the team did a great job, pitched in, and delivered in a clutch moment. One individual did not. He stated that he would not help because he felt that our team should not have to be in a panic due to one sales rep who could not send the presentation in correct format and in a timely manner. In front of our entire support team he stated that he would rather see our company fall apart than let the sales rep get away with his mistake. I understood his frustration and we did address the sales rep’s shortcomings later, but in that moment we had to do everything possible to ensure that our presenter would represent us in the best light possible. The team member who refused to help showed blatant disregard for our business and reputation and was actively demoralizing the rest of the team. We had to let him go.
Constant Pessimism: As the leader of a team part of your job is to keep everyone bought in and excited to be working towards the goals that you have set. It can be difficult to build morale under ideal circumstances and nearly impossible if you have a team member actively working to bring everyone else down. If you have a team member who is good at what they do but drags others down more than they help to build up, it may be time to replace them. I find it is easier to hire someone with a great attitude and teach them the job than it is to have someone who knows the job but needs taught a new attitude.
Rejection of Change: Whether it is process change, leadership change, or culture change there is a good chance that it will be met with some level of resistance. We expect push-back when we change direction at our organizations, but there are times when individuals take things too far. You may run across an individual who will never move in the new direction that the rest of the team is moving and if this is the case, they may need to move on. Teams today must remain flexible and nimble so those who slow the rest of the group down and make progress difficult may need to be cut loose.
It’s never fun to part ways with a team member that you expected to be a valued piece of your organization, but do not get caught waiting for someone to reach their potential. I was told by a mentor that potential is not a good thing because it indicates that you are not doing everything that you could be doing at the moment. Keep only people of excellence around you if you expect excellent results and don’t settle with employees who exhibit the signs that we’ve gone over.
Don’t be held back