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How to Deal With a Destructive Employee

Destructive employees exhibit abusive work behavior that is systematic and repeated. They often appear to be doing a decent job but are slowly destroying the morale of co-workers and undermining the goals of the organization. Destructive employees can be considered workplace bullies and need to be managed appropriately to prevent damage to an organization.Bad Employee

Examples of the behavior of destructive employees exhibit includes:

  • Setting up co-workers for failure. For example they may offer to help out on a project but then last minute not fulfill their obligation allowing the project to fail. They will pin the blame on the co-worker and make sure to excel at any projects they are solely responsible for.
  • Making occasional, subtle comments about other employees to management. “Susie is so nice. It is too bad she can’t seem to arrive on time.”
  • Undermining management authority. Rehashing a meeting after the meeting is a classic example of this.
  • Unwilling to do things that are “not my job”. Great employees will notice problems and respond without being asked. Good employees are willing to help when requested even if it means doing something ‘beneath’ them. Destructive employees are only willing to do exactly what is within their defined responsibilities and will not step up to help the company when needed.

Destructive employees reduce productivity for the entire department. They de-motivate co-workers and can even cause physical and emotional stress symptoms for those they target. The work environment becomes hostile and potentially leads high performing employees to look for alternative job options.

How to Manage Destructive Employees

If you suspect you have a destructive employee you need to verify that your assumption is correct. Consider getting feedback from trusted colleagues about the work environment and how well the team performs together. An anonymous survey is another way to get an understanding of the dynamics of the group and the employee satisfaction.

Once you have identified a destructive employee manage them very carefully. Provide clear and consistent direction. Don’t hesitate to document behaviors that seem inappropriate. When conversing with the employee be sure to focus on facts and issues. Avoid discussions of emotions. If they are on track for a promotion be sure to hold off until you have a full grasp of the situation. Promoting a destructive employee will be detrimental to morale of the entire organization and potentially what finally causes high performing employees to leave for new opportunities.

Your best bet is to avoid hiring someone who will be a destructive employee but it may be difficult to determine during the interview process. Close management can help the situation. Being aware of the issue will be significant for co-workers as you can attempt to mitigate issues. If the situation does not improve use the behavior documentation to try to terminate the destructive employee.  For more information contact us


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