HR & Staffing Productivity

The Type of Employees Who Will Stifle Your Business and It’s Long-Term Viability

Evan Goodman
Written by Evan Goodman

The vast majority of business are built with the support of valuable and productive employees. Unfortunately, having the wrong employees can also cause harm to the business. Sometimes it’s less about the numbers and the product, and more about who’s working on it.

In my Business Coaching practice, matters pertaining to staffing, are commonly raised, I.E. There are the general day to day matters that can be impacted by not having the right staff, but more often than not, business leaders and managers worry about how having the ‘wrong’ staff can impact the business’s long-term viability. Sometimes, it’s less about their skills and more about who they are.

My clients have nominated the following primarily factors to consider when taking into account which staff could be the undoing of their business while simultaneously creating an undesirable culture. I have included a very brief suggestion to help assist leaders with these issues.

Unmotivated Employees

A lack of motivation can often appear to be a small problem, but it is invariable the source of many other issues. Lacking motivation, or the right type of motivation, leads to staff often doing only the minimum amount of work required, just enough to qualify as working and not be called out for. This can result in ‘cut corners’, flawed feedback, and poor customer service.

The solution here is easier said than done – motivate your employees. As the entrepreneur, business owner or manager, you are the leader. However, what drives you may not necessarily what drives your employees. A starting point could be to find out what gets them excited to come to work, and work with that.

Employees Who Complain a Lot

A few ‘complaints’ from staff to management are often necessary. Entrepreneurs can view them as feedback and use them to improve either the office processes or make changes to their own behavior. Unfortunately, ‘complaints’ when not handled correctly can easily get out of control. Even a single complaint can lead to a series of further complaints, ultimately causing a decrease in overall staff morale. This does ultimately cause an impact on the company’s growth potential and productivity.

One of the option available to the business leader is to continuously improve the way things are done in the business, IE give staff less things to complain about and they will often complain less. However, there are some employees who will just find (new) things to complain about. Talk to them to see if they can change the way they behave. If not, you need to consider if they are a good fit for the business.

Employees Who Lie

Liars are always a problem and you never want them near you or your business – period. They simply cannot be trusted and will inevitably, at some point, cause your business harm. For example, there are various reasons liars can make it difficult to cultivate relationships with customers, including disappointing customers who either stop using your services and/or tell others how bad your services are, to making you think things are going well when in fact they’re not. Besides, no other staff member is going to want to work with them; ultimately impacting the business.

Dealing with people who have a propensity to lie is not easy. However, the problems they cause are often systemic (across the business) and you cannot afford not to act; particularly where they have lied to you or a client. You cannot afford to have a liar on the premises – it is just too ‘dangerous’ on many levels. Bearing in mind, I am not referring to ‘little white lies’ or fibs – these are, or can be, the exceptions. However, once the matter of lying has come to light, it is imperative you take action – better to be safe than sorry.

Know-It-All/Critical Employees

As a successful business owner, (particularly if you are in the SME space) you are expected to have a very good understanding of what makes your business ‘tick’. What you are not expected to do is act like a know-it-all. Besides being an irritating trait, it would make working with staff, and suppliers, difficult. It could also prevent you from actually finding the right solutions or answers to issues that need to be solved.

You don’t want know-it-all employees either. Instead of focusing on their tasks, they could. For example, spend much of their time criticising or giving their opinions about the work of others, often when there is no need to. Besides putting their colleagues off-side, it can be detrimental to employee morale and inclusiveness. 

You need to coach staff who fall into this category so that they are aware of this trait, and its impact on others. Behavioural change can take time and needs constant work. However, it should come from a positive premise and there is no reason many of the culprit’s colleagues could not be involved to help them in this feedback process.


While there are times when you have to work long hours, including on the weekends, there do need to be times when you take a break. In fact, breaks are mandatory if you want to stay healthy (and maintain a good relationship with your family). It it stating the obvious by saying that running a business is often very stressful and if you don’t get enough rest, it will eventually wear you down.

If you realise you have workaholic employees who seem to struggle to find the ‘balance’ between working hard and taking time off, speak to them immediately. Explain to them that although their hard work is valued, it is likely not doing them, or their well-being, much good. Please note that I am not referring to the occasional ‘late nighter’, rather to those staff who are habitual workaholics. Very often it is not about the work itself, but about them being seen to do the right thing, or, some people are simply perfectionist and will work at something until it meets their very high standards.

In most cases, you need to coach and mentor them so that they become aware of the consequences of their habits on their well-being. These staff will often wear their hard work as a badge of honour so the situation needs to be handled delicately. After all, who does not want a staff member who is prepared to work the hours to get the job done. Regardless, there could be a point when they do makes mistakes due to fatigue, or the issue, if left unspoken could lead to more serious health concerns. Hence, even though a workaholic worker may appear to bring short term benefits, you need to step in to prevent long term consequences.

Business leaders, when confronted with the above issues, need to be mindful to approach the staff member and question them with valid and friendly questions, rather than in an accusatory manner. Find the right time and location to have the discussion and ensure you are open to their views and opinions, regardless the circumstances leading up to the meeting. It is both an opportunity for you to enhance your leadership skills as well as confront a serious issue that has the potential to undermine your company.

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About the author

Evan Goodman

Evan Goodman

Over the past 30 years, Evan Goodman | Business Coach has founded numerous ‘start-ups’, built them into successful businesses and gone on to sell them. He has experienced and overcome most of the common challenges faced by business owners and leaders and understands the pressure and stresses that running a business can cause.

He also recognises the value and importance of getting sound advice and support when faced by these common challenges and of being prepared to openly discuss issues with a coach or mentor.

Since building up his last business into a national company, and selling it in 2009, Evan focusses on coaching SME business owners on how to become business leaders. He has a Masters of Business Coaching degree UOW; creating a unique blend of experience, expertise and coaching best practice for his clients.

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