Six Types of Problem Employees and How to Spot Them

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Article by: Tim Mworia

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I like criticism. Whether deserved or not, eloquent or inarticulate, it opens a window to someone else's way of thinking in contrast to one's own. And for a writer its great fodder for another piece of writing. In response to last week's article titled ‘Do You Want It Done, Or Done Your Way?’ a lovely lady whom I regard as a mentor mentioned that the article ascribed considerable goodwill to millennial workers, often giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Now, it's important that the reader remembers that these articles aren't meant to hoist up the millennial as a model employee who is otherwise mischaracterized, neither are they designed to call out older generation employers and paint them as out-of-touch workplace dinosaurs.

As I pledged in my first piece titled ‘The Test Generation: Do Millennial Workers Really Make for Feckless and Disloyal Employees?’ this column seeks to delve deeper into the psyche of the next wave workforce with an eye toward providing a healthy cross-generational understanding between older and younger employees, devoid of convenient stereotypes.

Things that I've advocated for here on behalf of the millennial worker; including workplace autonomy, creative free-will, and a sense of ownership are merely antidotes to an antiquated traditional system. They are not the vectors that will lead to a glitch in the matrix. It's also important that the reader remembers that when writing about a cohort such as this column does with millennials, individual responsibility may be lost in the mire of collectivism.

Of course, there are problem employees within the millennial cohort just like any other generation of workers. Not only are those type of workers irritating, but they also drain company resources and morale at a premium. One American study showed that these employees can cost a mid-sized organization the value of up to $8,000 daily in output, innovation and trust.

With that in mind, I find it a perfect opportunity to zero-in on six types of millennials and their bad habits which I've encountered in the workplace. These are red flags that employers can look out for in this particular generation of workers.

The Bob: Mr Know-it-all who likes to talk more than they like to listen. This habit cuts across generations but is admittedly not a very good look on millennials. In the workplace, these employees miss a crucial chance to learn from more experienced personnel. They’re also likely to ignore processes borne of previous failures in favour of what they themselves think to be best.

The Nancy: Lured with money rather than growth. They look for nothing more than monetary gain in a job; not job satisfaction, goal fulfilment, or career development. They also tend to dwell on what the company can do for them, not what they can do for the company.

The Chacha: The millennial harbinger of slack and turpitude. This is the underperforming millennial who exhibits signs of overconfidence. They are cocky about their ability especially in front of a group setting. They like to be seen to take up the heavy burden of responsibility by the boss, predictably getting in over their head. The end result is often sub-par work that fails to meet expectation, which means those around them are forced to pick up the slack.

The Billy: “Yes, But…” is their great workplace mantra. These employees repeatedly fail to take responsibility for their own actions and failures. They're more likely to blame those around them or even the oxygen in the air itself for their poor outcomes.

The Karen: Doesn’t work well with others. They're disliked by co-workers hence avoided or given a cold shoulder by their own colleagues. They tend to compensate for bad team spirit through manipulative behaviour like loyalty-signalling and pandering to the boss. They hope that this relationship building will cover for their eventual lack of results.

The Carole: I began the article by noting the value of criticism, but this employee thinks different. They have no stomach for it and grow either defensive or harshly resistant in the face of criticism and change. This is indicative of an employee who isn't ready to improve themselves by ironing out the little creases in their work life. Do note though that feedback has to be constructive. Unnecessary criticism may lead to employee demotivation.