The Snake in the Grass Employee


When you hired this employee, you thought he (she) was going to be a good fit for your team. He said all the right things in the interview, and had all the skills you were looking for. To your face, he’s cheerful and positive, and gives every appearance of being a good team player. It’s a different story, however, when you’re not around.

Behind your back, he’s questioning your authority, your decisions and your judgement. He doesn’t overtly work against you, but sits quietly behind the scenes stirring the pot. It’s almost like he’s just looking for you to do something wrong. Other employees have talked to you about the things he’s said and done, and you find yourself tiptoeing around him. He’s poison in the workplace, and if left unchecked can seriously damage team morale and productivity. What do you do?

1. Begin to document everything. Be specific.

2. If you do have employees who are telling you about his behaviour, make sure to thank them and reinforce your rationale for your decisions and actions. These are your supporters, and they’ll need ammunition for those times they stand up for you. (which they will).

3. Arrange a one-on-one conversation with him. Tell him the things you’ve been hearing (without naming the employees who have been telling you about it). Be as specific as possible. Begin by saying, “Fred, you appear to not be happy with the way things are being done around here. Do you want to talk about it?” Although there’s a good chance he won’t actually admit to his behaviour when confronted directly, listen carefully to what he has to say, validate his responses, and re-explain why you are doing things the way you’re doing them.

4. At the end, make it clear that you expect him to come to you if he has any issues with the way things are going – by saying something like: “Fred, I appreciate your thoughts on this, and I really value your input. It’s important that you address these concerns directly to me. It’s very important to me that I know you are on board with us and part of the team. I’m sure you can appreciate how a perceived negative attitude can impact a team. Can I count on you?”

Chances are, as always, he will say all the right things. But he will at least get the message that his behaviour isn’t acceptable, and that you’re aware of what goes on in the workplace. With any luck he’ll start to be a little more careful with what he says.

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