The Damage a Not Quite Right Employee May Cause

Outside it might be freezing, but a “Spring Cleaning” early in the new year may be in order.

It’s a challenging time to operate a business, with changing customer expectations, increased competitive pressures and difficulty finding the right employees can often force us to “settle” for an employee that may be wrong for your business.

But, are the not quite right employees worth the risk?


A case in point:

I recently contacted my airline to let them know that the 2,800 miles I had earned from a recent trip were not credited to my frequent flyer account. The rude customer service rep that greeted me replied that she could only give me the miles if I gave her the ticket number. I told her that the flight attendant at the airport assured me that the miles had already been added to my account; therefore, I no longer had the ticket. What was her reply?

Well, that’s not my problem, it’s yours. You’ll have to get a hold of your travel agent to get the ticket numbers. Then you can call us back and start over.”

I took a breath and then contacted the frequent-flyer customer service department for that airline to see if something else could be done. I was greeted this time by a friendly and warm employee who ended up being extremely helpful. I mentioned that I had had a negative experience on my previous call, to which she asked if I knew the name of the previous rep. I told her that it was Jennifer. The rep on the phone went silent and then let out a loud sigh. She said, “Ah yes. Jennifer has a habit of rubbing our customers the wrong way. You are not the first to complain about her. Everyone else in our department is so nice, and we care about the concerns of our customers, but Jeniffer’s attitude makes us all look bad.”

Do you know that one colleague who only puts in the minimum amount of effort each day while other employees are working hard? Have you found yourself apologizing to customers for the actions of another employee over their service requests?


Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton wrote the following in their book, How Full is Your Bucket:

 “It is possible for just one or two people to poison an entire workplace. And managers who have tried moving negative people to other departments to alleviate the problem know that ‘location, location, location’ doesn’t apply to these people; they bring their negativity along with them wherever they go. Negative employees can tear through a workplace like a hurricane racing through a coastal town.”

When customers and colleagues associate a specific employee with a negative attitude label, the employee’s cost to the business must be evaluated. Consider how the following list can negatively impact your organization.

  1. Cost of negative word-of-mouth advertising
  2. Cost of replacing highly competent employees who quit because they don’t want to work with this negative employee
  3. Cost of time wasted by managers attempting to retrain the negative employee
  4. Cost of losing an angry customer or client
  5. Cost of having to spend the time to redo the damage caused by the employee’s refusal to complete the service correctly the first time.


There’s an old saying that a rude employee is like a skunk in a field full of cats. While they may look like other employees, their negative attitude makes their service stink. As a result, one employee’s bad behavior can lead customers to think the whole department, and the company stinks as well.

Close to 70% of customers will leave a company simply because of the indifferent attitude of a single employee. Look at a whole field of your great employees and ask yourself, “Are there any skunks in that field?” If so, how much damage are they doing to other co-workers and the relationships with customers? Are they worth the risk?