Top 10 Dysfunctional Employee Stories

Last Updated Sep 21, 2010 5:22 PM EDT

Dysfunctional Employee
We dump on screwed-up bosses, managers, and executives an awful lot around here. Now it's time to turn the tables. I mean, since when is dysfunction the exclusive domain of those with manager in their job title?

As we discussed in 7 Signs You May Be a Bad Manager, "Nobody wants to believe they're the problem. It's a common enough phenomenon that isn't limited to bosses but applies to people at all levels."

While that may be true, we work in a politically correct era where the burden of proof is more and more on the manager, so dealing with problem employees is getting more challenging all the time.

As I said in How to Seriously Motivate People, "If you've done your best and they still don't get it, get rid of them. If for some reason you're prevented from doing that, what can I tell you; you're screwed."

If you're not familiar with the "mother's curse," it goes something like this: "When you grow up I hope you have children just like you." Well, the same thing goes for managers and employees. I never realized how screwed up employees could be until I had my own.

I don't know if it was the dreaded "manager's curse," but here are my Top 10 Dysfunctional Employee Stories. Keep in mind, these were all supposed to be professionals:

  1. When I terminated an employee whose performance had gone seriously downhill, she told the head of HR that we'd had a sexual relationship and I was retaliating because she wouldn't sleep with me again.
  2. In the middle of a due-diligence presentation to a bunch of investment bankers for my company's IPO, an employee brought me critical research data we'd all been waiting for ... but it hadn't been checked and was all wrong! Good thing I noticed.
  3. Soon after I joined a company as a marketing manager, someone sent a prank memo, ostensibly from me to my boss, where "I" badmouthed all my peers in the marketing and sales organization. Some, including my boss, actually believed it was real.
  4. One guy took the maximum allowable time off for paternity (yes, the dad gets time off in California), negotiated additional time working from home with pay, then when he was done milking it, quit without notice.
  5. During a trip to Korea, one of my sales people hired a driver to take us to customer meetings. On the way to the airport, after we dropped off the sales person, I realized the driver was drunk: he kept falling asleep on a crowded highway. I really thought I was going to die that day.
  6. As a young manager, I used a rare job req to hire an employee who turned out to be completely incompetent. When confronted, he threatened litigation, since he was a minority. On a whim, I checked his resume and found that he'd lied about his degree.
  7. The girlfriend of an employee I had just fired, an employee herself, stormed into my office and yelled so loudly half the building heard, "You're the sorriest excuse for a vice president I've ever seen. I'm ashamed to work here," and stormed out.
  8. Ever have employees literally cry to you over something out of your control? I never felt so uncomfortable. It should be illegal.
  9. A contractor (not an employee, but still) who I was counting on for a big deliverable on a key program delivered a completely worthless piece of garbage at the last minute. I had to scramble to buy an extra week and worked practically around the clock to recover.
  10. An engineer made a mechanical sample of a high-tech product we were developing for me to show some VCs. During one pitch, the sample shattered in my hands. Granted, he didn't do it on purpose -- at least I don't think he did.
You know, with all the rhetoric about a**hole and bad bosses these days, you've got to remember that that knife cuts both ways. More often than not, the problem isn't you.

So, what kind of screwed-up things have your employees done?

Note: I modified number 8; it was originally gender specific and wrongly so.
Image CC 2.0 Flickr user dan_mcweeney