Joe Duran

Duran Duranblog

Joe Duran

How to deal with 'rotten apple' employees

If you want to grow your business, you simply cannot afford the cost of people who aren't a good fit.

Jul 24, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

By Joe Duran

+ Zoom

People issues are invariably the hardest part of running a company. Great people build energy within a company and propel it to great heights. Bad people can spread their bad habits and infect the good folks. Typically, people are hired for their resumes, but fired for their attitudes. When is an attitude so destructive to your business that you must act?

We know the types of folks who sap the energy from a business: the person who's always looking out for their own interests, asking for more money at every opportunity. How about the person who puts everyone and everything down? Or the person you are afraid to ask what they did all day because you know you won't like the answer? Sometimes even people with great skills turn out to be an energy drain and distraction for you and your company.

A few years ago, while at a disruptive company forum at Hamburger University in Illinois, I participated in a session with a brilliant marketer and author, Michael Maddux. He shared an insight that helped me immensely when thinking about the kind of people who propel a company forward and those who hold it back. In his opinion, there were three kinds of people who drain the energy out of a great company: victims, know-it-alls and non-believers. We have worked with that model and adjusted it over the years. Here are the “toxic 4” -- the employee traits we believe can really distract and even hurt growing companies:

1. The WIIFM (what's in it for me). These are the folks who view every issue through their own selfish lens, and often place their self-interests ahead of the greater good. They take all the credit and feel a need to one-up those around them. This type of person makes everyone more self-interested and builds distrust within an organization.

2. The know-it-all. Shuts down any creative discussion, believes their opinions are facts and won't admit to being wrong. This person stifles innovation and alienates high potential folks who want to grow and contribute. They can be the people who won't support anything that they didn't create.

3. The finger pointer. Won't take responsibility for problems, but happily takes credit. Blames other people or external circumstances for their continued lack of success in their projects. They enable a blame society where everyone seeks to distance themselves from responsibility.

4. The clock watcher. The person who claims to be working, but their output doesn't reflect it. They appear busy and fill their days; however, they aren't productive and everyone knows it. These folks can instill a "why should I bother" mindset in your most productive workers.

No doubt we all have moments where we display some of these behaviors ourselves, we're only human after all. However, for certain folks this is not a passing fad, and make no mistake, these four traits are a cancer within a successful growth culture. The longer they rest within your firm, the harder it will be to lessen their impact.

If you want to have a dynamic growth culture, you simply cannot afford the cost of people who aren't a good fit. As a consequence, we have tried to act swiftly when we know that no amount of coaching will change a person's attitude. We have also operated with a simple filter we look for and reward when assessing our team, our “magic 4.” Consider:

1. Loyalty. A desire to fight for a cause bigger than themselves and care deeply for the well-being of those around them.

2. Humility. A willingness to openly listen, acknowledge weaknesses and genuine desire to grow and improve.

3. Responsibility. To take ownership of their circumstances and work hard to do what they say they will do. Take responsibility when things don't work out.

4. Productivity. Take pride in making things happen and making an impact, generate outsized contributions and output for the team.

We work in a service industry, and that means we are entirely people-dependent. The way our people act and interact drives the quality and success of the entire business. If you want to improve your business you have to improve the way your team works.

Many of us are loyal by nature. After all, something caused us to want to enter an industry where we serve the needs of our clients. The challenge is that this loyalty can often lead us to avoid the tough decisions when it comes to our team. There is one telling and often surprising sign when you act fairly but firmly with folks who aren't a good fit -- the rest of the team will be relieved and appreciative. The good apples stay healthy!

Joe Duran is chief executive of United Capital and the bestselling author of “The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now." Follow him @DuranMoney.


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Advisers on the Move

Does your pay stack up?

The Adviser Research Dashboard

Based on data collected through InvestmentNews' annual adviser research studies, this interactive, customizable tool allows you to view detailed data on compensation, staffing and financial performance practices from across the industry.

Learn more »

Upcoming Event

Apr 30


Retirement Income Summit

Join InvestmentNews at the 12th annual Retirement Income Summit - the industry's premier retirement planning conference.Much has changed - and much remains to be learned. Attend and discuss how the future is full of opportunity for ... Learn more

Featured video


Why the bionic adviser is the wave of the future

The bionic adviser is the way of the future. We spoke with Simon Roy of Jemstep to get his insights on how technology will continue to impact the industry.

Video Spotlight

Will It Last As Long As Your Clients Do?

Sponsored by Prudential

Video Spotlight

The Catalyst

Sponsored by Pershing

Latest news & opinion

Labor's Alexander Acosta and SEC's Jay Clayton tell lawmakers they will work together on fiduciary rule

In separate appearances before Senate panels, the regulators stressed the cooperation that Republican legislators and opponents of the DOL fiduciary rule are demanding.

Brian Block denies cooking the books at Schorsch REIT

Former CFO claims everything he did was 'appropriate' and 'correct.'

Interns will take on several roles at advisory firms this summer

College students are helping with client prep, firm visioning and long-term projects, among other duties.

10 funds with largest 3-year outflows

Even well-managed funds that have beaten the S&P 500’s 10.1% average annual gain have watched investors flee.

Wirehouse training programs are back

At one time, major brokerage houses ran large, expensive training programs for thousands of young brokers, and now it looks as if they are about to return to that model.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print