How to spot and manage a ‘bad apple’ in your workforce before it’s too late

A negative or underperforming employee can have a detrimental impact on your manufacturing plant’s success, contributing little or nothing towards team morale, productivity and your company ethos. So, how can you spot a poor employee before it’s too late? And how can you remedy the situation?

‘Bad apples’: What to look out for

1. Bad apples talk negatively and have a bad attitude

Look out for workers who whinge or moan about everything that comes into their cross hairs, including company decisions, policies, goals and other employees. Worse still, they may try to change these decisions by complaining to senior managers, rather than just accepting the situation.

2. Bad apples won’t listen to or follow directions

Positive employees take responsibility for their mistakes and ask how they can improve. Bad apples tend not to apologise for their errors and may refuse to change problematic behaviours. They don’t work well with others, so expect them to ignore managers’ suggestions, feedback and directives.

3. Bad apples do the bare minimum work

Bad apples are bludgers. They often get distracted or sidetracked by other tasks they find more interesting than key priorities. They may take frequent breaks if their manager is not present or feel they should be allowed to leave early or start late.

4. Bad apples constantly make excuses or blame others for poor work

You can bet that if you have just one bad apple on your team, they’re responsible for at least half the team’s problems. They enjoy putting other people down and making them look worse than themselves to feel like they’ve accomplished something.

5. Bad apples ignore safety, quality or legal compliance protocols

Just as a poor employee feels they don’t have to follow the rules, they also think it’s okay to ignore basic safety regulations and precautions. This puts themselves, others, your production and your business in danger.

6. Bad apples don’t get along with colleagues

A bad apple will cause problems for everyone around them by picking fights and making others feel unnecessary guilt, shame and pressure. They may try to make it seem like other people are the ones causing strife when, in reality, they’re simply trying to shift the blame.

Managing a ‘bad apple’ before it’s too late

It’s crucial to act before a poor employee’s behaviour causes irreparable damage that affects the entire team and your production facility’s reputation and success. Here are six steps you can take.

1. Find out the root of the problem

First, establish what the problem is before deciding how to resolve it. Make a time to sit down with your employee to unpack their issues or resentment in a calm, open and non-judgemental way.

2. Provide feedback and ask for it in return

Speak openly about what behaviours need to change and ask for the employee’s feedback in return.

3. Discuss solutions

Both of you should come up with resolutions. Ask the employee what changes they would like to see to enjoy their job again. You can also suggest your own solutions and ask for their input.

4. Give clear direction on expectations and consequences

Ensure that everyone knows their responsibilities, so there are no grey areas where misunderstandings can happen. Set out a timeframe in which your resolutions should be implemented and outline what’ll happen if they’re not carried out.

5. Document poor behaviour

If problems still happen after the discussion stage, it’s important to document them in detail before giving a formal warning. This also allows employees to see exactly what they have done wrong and how it has affected the company.

6. If all else fails – let them go

If there’s no improvement after all this, then it’s time to think about letting your bad apple go. As much as you might not want to do it, your company culture and productivity should always come before anything else.

Have you had to let one or more poor employees go? Do you need experienced, reliable and dedicated workers to fill the role on a short- or long-term contract basis? Kottek is here to help.