The Five Traits To Look For In A Problem Employee

bad employee

“They even got me an apartment to stay in when I went to Shanghai,” “Tommy”, my new VP Sales said to me. It was offhand comment Tommy made about his time consulting with another startup that was based in China.

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But, the comment didn’t ring true to me. “What startup gets an apartment for a consultant,” I wondered. Tommy had never mentioned this startup before to me, so I was wondering if I just missed it, or if Tommy had lied to me.

When Tommy left my office, I immediately looked at his resume again. There was no mention of this company. However, I was lucky because I was friends with one of the company’s investors.

So, I called Winston and I asked him about Tommy. Winston said, “Oh yes, Tommy was our VP Sales, but the CEO had to fire him. He had his eyes on another job.”

That was all I needed to know. Tommy failed the most important test of any employee you’ll ever have. He lacked integrity.

And, when someone lacks integrity, you can no longer trust them. it doesn’t matter what positive qualities they might have, you have to let them go. Immediately.

Tommy had a lot of faults. He had so many faults that I’m embarrassed that I actually hired him. So think of this post as my repentance for the sin of hiring Tommy.

As I said, there’s more, including:


A. Your worst hires will have a bad attitude.


“You need to meet your revenue numbers,” I said to Tommy about the revenue goals he had set for himself. Tommy had been on the job for about one month and already things were going sideways.

“Well, okay,” Tommy responded.

That’s not exactly the awe-inspiring response you want from your sales lead. Tommy didn’t seem to care. It was as if he expected to fail.

I knew, in fact I already knew, that Tommy wasn’t going to succeed as our VP Sales. I couldn’t stand Tommy. His attitude just sucked.

A bad attitude is at the top of my list of traits of the bad employees I’ve hired over the years. But there was so much more wrong with Tommy…


B. Your worst hires will lack integrity, part II.


“I was speaking to someone at the gym who works at Maxim (or biggest competitor), and she already knew that you put everyone on minimum wage,” Tommy said to me the Monday after we had put the staff on minimum wage the previous Friday.

Moving the team to minimum wage for six weeks was a necessary step to keep the company alive. If we didn’t take this step, our investors would have shut the company down.

Tommy was out Friday, so I told him over the weekend about our intentions. Tommy said, “That (the salary he would be getting when we moved to minimum wage) won’t even cover the cost of gas.”

“You’re going to lose a lot of people,” Tommy said. I didn’t say a word in response, but I knew that Tommy was lying.

I suspected that what really happened was Tommy was pissed that he was making minimum wage, so he told this person what happened. Now he was covering his tracks.

As I said, when you can’t trust someone anymore, then, no matter how brilliant the person might be, it becomes difficult to work with them, and Tommy was far from brilliant. Tommy had other problems including…


C. Your worst hires will not be passionate.


You could certainly site Tommy’s unenthusiastic response to me saying you have to meet your numbers as proof that Tommy wasn’t passionate about his job. But the problems started the first week Tommy started with us.

We had a sales review meeting that I used to run. The meeting was at 4PM, and I had told Tommy about the meeting with the goal of transferring the meeting to Tommy.

The sales team walks into the conference room at 4PM, but there’s no Tommy. I asked the team, “Where’s Tommy?”

The team said they hadn’t seen him. I called Tommy on his mobile. “Tommy, we’re having the sales review meeting right now. Where are you?”

“I’m on my way home. Go ahead and have the meeting without me.”


Needless to say, I was a little surprised by Tommy’s response. I know that if I was in his shoes, there’s no way I would have missed that meeting.

Tommy, on the other hand, didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. But there were more problems with Tommy…


D. Your worst hires will not fit with the company culture.


I knew that Tommy didn’t seem to fit our culture before I hired him. And yet I still hired him. That just goes to show that you should never lower your hiring standards for anyone, no matter how good you think they are.

My worries about Tommy fitting in were proven to be correct. Tommy was what you might call, “a behind closed doors” person in an open door culture.

Tommy always seemed to be in an office or a conference room talking to someone with the door shut. We had an inclusive positive culture, but all it takes is one person with a bad attitude to bring everyone else down.

One of the biggest residual issues you have with someone that doesn’t fit your culture, especially if they are managers, is the other people you will lose. In the three months Tommy spent with us, we lost the whole staff he inherited.



E. Your worst hires will not be smart.


How I missed Tommy’s lack of sales ability during the interview process embarrasses me. Then again, the rest of the executive team and the board missed it too.

Tommy had a great background. He came highly recommended, and his reference checks were all good, yet he was a complete disaster.

However, there was no missing Tommy’s lack of skill once he started working with us. It’s still painful for me to think about how unprepared he was.

We all whiffed in hiring Tommy. Scratch that. I whiffed in hiring Tommy. The reason I say I whiffed is I was the CEO, so I was the one responsible for hiring Tommy, not anyone else.

Tommy was, of all the people I’ve ever hired, by far my worst hire. He is the only person I’ve ever hired to be lacking in all four key traits. Tommy had the Grand Slam of bad traits.


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