November 2, 2016

How the Problem Subordinate in Your Team is Like that Bad Apple in the Fruit Basket?

Have you come across a problem subordinate in your team?

If you have done people management even for a while, you would have a strong "Yes" as your answer. And that's not really surprising.

A problem subordinate is like a bad apple in the fruit basket. They need to be confronted and corrected.

There would typically be one problem subordinate in your team (or at times more than one, if you are plain unlucky). That is sadly and mostly the case for most people managers.

The analogy to bad apple is a thought out analogy since like a bad apple would rot other apples in the fruit basket, a problem subordinate would influence others in the team in a negative way.

If you are a people manager who generally trusts those who report into you, in no time you will come in for a nasty surprise if you do not handle the problem employee in good time.

Once, you get the nasty surprise (or rather shock) it is important to not allow a problem subordinate to linger on with his tendency to create problems.

Looking at the problem subordinate as the bad apple is the first step and the most important one a people manage should take immediately.

How to know who is the bad apple in your team? Here are some tell-tale signs:
  • The problem subordinate is a work shirker. He will push his ownership and activities on to others, including to the person he reports into.
  • The problem subordinate pushes things he should be doing to the junior folks in the team, at times in a coercive manner.
  • The problem subordinate is a master of avoiding work by abusing "work from home". If he doesn't feel like working on a certain day, he will apply for "work from home".
  • The problem  subordinate will copy others left, right and center without bothering about why someone is being copied.
  • The problem subordinate will try to show that he is the only one who is working and that too very hard. It is, however, easy to see through these lies of a problem subordinate.
  • The problem subordinate will go and tell lies to others including those in the chain of reporting of the person he reports into. His main concern is to make sure his misdeeds and lack of work ethics do not get exposed.
  • The problem subordinate has no interest in work and is only focused on creating noise around the work he is doing. Rather than doing, showing that he is doing is what the problem subordinate spends his energies on.
It is not easy to handle a problem subordinate, especially the ones who display chameleon-like character (they tell you something and tell others something else about the same thing).

The problem gets compounded multiple times, in case the people manager reports into a problem  boss (someone who is incompetent but is in that position due to loyalty only).

In case you are surrounded by a problem subordinate and a problem boss, then you have had it.

Keeping the points in this post and an earlier post on Stuck in a Toxic Workplace and Reporting into an Unprofessional, Incompetent and Toxic Person might help to a certain extent.

And yes, good luck to you for the tough ride you are going to have!

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