How to Deal With a Problem Employee That Outperforms the rest of Your Team

How to Deal With a Problem Employee who’s also an Outperformer

Do you have a problem employee who bullies and upsets other staff members? Have other staff complained to you about him/her? Is this employee also doing so much work that you feel they would be too hard to replace? Are you wondering whether you need to do something about it or are you thinking that things will work out for themselves?

In an ideal world people who bully other staff members would be gotten rid of and replaced, especially when it is ongoing and affecting multiple people who continually come and go in your business. Yet in reality, most are kept on despite their behaviour and with few consequences. Often this is because the business owner relies on this person so much they can’t afford to let them go or they are afraid that they won’t find someone good enough to replace them. If this is you, you may be wondering whether it’s worth going through the hassle of getting rid of them and having to find someone good enough to replace him/her.

1. Pain-Pleasure Continuum

From a human behavioural perspective, there will be a strong internal emotional force driving your decision-making. This force is called the ‘Pain-Pleasure Continuum’.

As human beings 70% of us are driven more by pain than pleasure, meaning that we will make decisions based on whether we think something will cause us more pain than pleasure.  We will move away from pain more than we will move towards pleasure. If you have a problem employee that you have decided to keep within your team the chances are you associate more pain with moving that person on than keeping them.

You may have made the right decision and at the same time, it may be the Pain-Pleasure Continuum holding you back.

The problem with the Pain-Pleasure Continuum is that it will result in people making more short-term decisions for the sake of short-term gain and less pain only to realise later down the track that the long-term pain then becomes much greater with far-reaching consequences.

Short-term decision-making is engrained within western society. You only have to look at politics to see that politicians will often act in their best interests for the sake of short-term votes rather than the long-term benefit of the country. The state of the environment and the ever-growing impacts of global warming are other examples of short-term gain being prioritised over long-term sustainability.

2. Long-Term Consequences

In the short term, a problem employee who is productive and a high performer will ease your short-term business deadlines and problems. But in the long-term a problem employee can have disastrous consequences for your business, for example:

  • A problem employee who is bullying other staff members will affect the whole culture of your team in terms of morale and motivation. It won’t be isolated to the people in conflict, it will affect everyone;
  • If other employees see that bullying is accepted in your workplace they will consider your workplace to have lower standards in terms of morals and doing what is right. They will likely be less loyal and less likely to do what is necessary to support your business when times are tough;
  • Low morale leads to lower levels of productivity;
  • In the long-term, the problem will get worse and affect more people until eventually your business will have a negative reputation amongst other people in the industry and you will no longer be able to attract the best staff;
  • The growth of the people being bullied and the other people being affected will be halted;
  • From a legal perspective you are at risk of being in breach of anti-bullying laws; and
  • You are also at risk of bullied staff members taking time off work due to stress and claiming compensation for long-term health impacts.

It is not an easy problem to deal with and there is no easy solution but what is clear is that the problem is not going to go away and will only get worse if it is not dealt with quickly and effectively.

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You can be an effective leader or employee. Bring out your best through coaching. Hi, I’m Jade Varley, a professional business and leadership coach specialising in Business Coaching, Leadership Coaching, and Team Training.

Get in touch with me on 0468 474 995 or send me a message through our Contact Page.

Jade Varley - Brisbane Business and Leadership Coach


Jade Varley is a Certified Leadership and Business Coach and has been in business for 9 years.  She coaches business owners and senior leaders to bring out their best so they can grow and manage their businesses and themselves.