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Your business is down. Your customers don't seem to be as happy or at least they aren't as engaged with your company as they have been in the past. So, what's going on? Is it the economy? Maybe. Is it the increased competition? Perhaps. You have great employees, dedicated to helping your business. However, you may have a few bad employees working for you that may be influencing the poor performance of your business. We'll define the bad employee as, "knowing what you know now, you wouldn't have hired them." It's the employee with plenty of counterproductive behavior that takes too much of the supervisor's valuable time dealing with it. A bad employee manifests in many ways and here's what they don't want you to know:

Poor Attitude – Poor attitudes may have developed since they were hired. They may hustle when you are around, but they slack off the moment you aren't monitoring their work activity. It may show in rudeness and poor customer service to the customers and clients. They may trash talk about their fellow employees, the management team, or the company. Their work is shoddy and they have difficulty working cohesively with the other employees. Poor attitudes that aren't addressed may infect others within the organization.

Counterproductive Behavior - Everything is a battle with them. They come in late and leave early. They disrespect authority and think they have the answer for everything. This employee disrupts the work flow within the workplace and sabotages productivity. They may fail to use protective equipment and be unsafe in their work habits exposing themselves and others to accidents and injury.

Substance abuse - The bad employees may be influenced by the use of illegal drugs. It may show in high rates of tardiness and absenteeism, worker's comp claims, and just not getting their job done. According to the American Council for Drug Education, 2 million Americans use heroin, 6 million use cocaine, 18 million abuse alcohol, and an estimated 23 million Americans use marijuana at least four times a week. Addiction to narcotic pain relievers is rising rapidly. In a report from OSHA, of all the drug users, almost 75 percent are employed. Statistically, that means chances are high that you have some working for you. Over 20 percent of young workers admit to using marijuana while on the job and 1/3 of employees know of illegal drug sales in their workplace. But the number one drug problem in the workplace is alcohol abuse.

Violating Policy – Policies may be ignored because of their stubbornness. They may know the rules for proper behavior and procedures within the work environment; they just don't want to follow them.

Dishonesty - Bad employees don't want you to know that they are stealing, and in a variety of ways. It may be simply checking their personal email, texting, or interacting on their private Facebook account and other social media sites while on company time. They may be stealing time by punching each other in and out to gain labor hours. They may be helping friends steal by not ringing or reducing prices, or manipulating the cash register and stealing cash and merchandise. According to the National Retail Security Survey, retailers lost $34.5 billion last year solely from theft by their employees. That amounts to nearly 44 percent of all losses. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners states that businesses lose an average of 5 percent of their total revenue to employee theft.

Dealing with them

Pre-employment - The best way of dealing with the counterproductive bad employee is to simply avoid hiring them in the first place. The employer could use more effective pre-employment screening tools looking for personality profiles more conducive to the business. Hiring managers may gain insight to a candidate's future behavior by employing behavior style interviewing techniques. The candidate is asked a series of questions of how he or she handled specific instances that may relate to issues that have incurred in your work environment. Well founded questions delving into past behavior give a good indication of future behavior. For example: "Tell me about a time that you didn't agree with a supervisor's direction. What was the situation, how did you react, and what was the final outcome?" You may be surprised how truthful the candidate will be in describing their recalcitrant behavior.

Setting expectations – Employees function better and are more productive if the expectations for behavior and productivity are clear. When setting performance expectations, identify the most important results expected of the position and how accountability will be assessed. The company's values and behaviors should be emphasized and reinforced from the employee's first day.

Policies and procedures - Establish well written policies and procedures. Make sure every employee reads and understands them. Include non-negotiable standards in the quiz and testing phase of their training. Reinforce the policies and procedures with tests and checks and ingrain them into the company's culture. Make sure managers and supervisors are compliant and address violations immediately with retraining and/or disciplinary action.

Progressive discipline – Outline the levels of disciplinary action that could be taken if policies, procedures or behavioral standards are violated. The purpose of progressive disciplinary actions is to change counterproductive behavior and put the violator on notice that future violations could result in more progressive warnings, suspensions and perhaps termination. It should be clearly understood that certain violations may be grounds for immediate termination such as sexual harassment, physical abuse and theft. Focus on the behaviors and performance, not the personality. Progressive discipline standards must be applied fairly and consistently.

Good turnover

We hate to lose employees. It's ingrained in us that turnover is bad for business. Hiring employees is costly and time consuming. In the case of the bad employee who does not respond to coaching, counseling, and other attempts at changing their counterproductive behavior, it may be time for them to go for the good of the team. Make certain their counterproductive behavior and poor performance have been well documented along with the attempts at remediation. Since their actions have been disruptive within the workplace, they may continue to do so after they leave by filing unfair termination and/or unemployment claims. When they are gone, you may find the other employees are relieved. They don't want to deal with the counterproductive co-worker either. They may be happier and more productive; and that's something the good employees want you to know.

For more information on security, safety, loss and crime prevention for restaurants, visit For daily tips on restaurant loss prevention, follow on Twitter @LossBusters

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Michael Atlas
    Nice article, Libby I really agree with what’s been said here, particularly in regards to setting expectations. Employees need to indeed have a pretty good idea of what is expected of them so they can maximize their productivity. For a lot of these, I think it might be helpful if some kind of audit were in place to check if employees were working to the required expectations and to identify those in particular whose performance was extraordinary. A friend of mine working at a company experienced this audit which was conducted by a company called SQM (link: There were some problems that were identified and fixed and overall, the company benefited. Might be something to look into. In any case, thanks for sharing this article.
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Latest posts by D. B. "Libby" Libhart
D. B. "Libby" Libhart
D.B. “Libby” Libhart has more than 30 years of experience in the loss prevention industry. He has provided security and safety leadership in retail settings such as department stores, drug stores and quick-service restaurants. Before launching his own company, LossBusters, Libby served as the Senior Director of U.S. Security and Safety for McDonald’s Corp. He entered the QSR industry with Taco Bell and subsequently YUM Brands.
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