Company Scapegoats and Culture Killers: Part 1

By: Chad Allen

We’ve all done it. No one likes to talk about it. Hiring is tough, especially today. The truth is you can have all your requirements set and onboarding procedures in place but you can still let a “culture killer” through the process. Who I’m talking about are not “bad apples”. These aren’t “bad” hires. These are people who bring down general morale, but they still serve an active and productive role in your day-to-day business.

These are the same people who can easily become the company scapegoat when things go wrong, but the two aren’t necessarily related. Let’s break this down:

Company Culture Killers play an active role in setting a bad standard, spreading negativity, and creating awkward moments. They may work hard but they complain that work is hard. I worked with a woman once who couldn’t help but grunt and make sounds of dissatisfaction during every single meeting. It killed the vibe and more often than not stalled creativity. She was also incredibly good at her job and filled a gap that management didn’t want to be responsible to replace.

When she inevitably left the organization, she was blamed for everything management didn’t like. She all of a sudden became the company scapegoat. I’ll write about that next month.

For now, let’s go back to this “gap she filled”. Can someone be so good at their job but also terrible to work with - and still be a good fit for the organization? What’s the right answer?

Here are some questions to ask:

Does this person clash with the company’s core values? Does this person negatively affect other coworkers? Are you embarrassed by this person’s behavior or attitude?

If you answered yes, you have a problem on your hands that needs to be addressed. The good news is, you can take steps to remedy the problem before any big decisions are made.

1. Try having an open and honest conversation about core values and see if you can align

Make sure you watch out for behavior or any disagreements/misunderstandings that you may have. Sometimes, just the conversation and getting on the same page is all you need. Other times, there just may be a glaring difference between what they value and what the company values. This is when you can evaluate whether or not this difference is contributing harm to your company culture.

2. Find out if their problem is chronic and inherent or if it is a symptom of a different problem like feeling overwhelmed or overworked

Sometimes, it isn’t about value at all, rather about a feeling. Everyone is human and goes through their different highs and lows. Identifying whether or not it is a temporary or chronic problem is essential before identifying the root cause that need to be addressed. If that person has a great work ethic, it could mean taking a few things off their plate so they can focus on what needs to get done - and have the awareness to lose the bad attitude.

Depending on the outcome, you can either:

Fix the problem; or Part ways

Parting ways is extremely difficult when someone truly is doing great work, but remember your culture is what drives morale and fosters productivity.

You can learn more about how to hire and lead great employees and a great company in our other blogs on The Beat!