Why Do Some Employees Seem Untouchable?

Most of us have worked with team members who are abrasive, bullies, and condescending. Their mere presence instills fear, and everyone walks on eggshells wondering if they are going to be the next target.

So, why do they still have jobs? As an HR Manager, I can tell you most of the time the reason is that they get results. Since their results improve the bottom line, their behaviors get overlooked.

But, the problem with that is they single-handedly destroy the morale of everyone around them. Their employees dread coming to work, their peers don’t enjoy working with them, they have high turnover in their department, etc. Other employees try to avoid them at all costs and the environment is full of tension.

If we look at the bigger picture, these people are actually costing the company money. Turnover costs are extremely high. Every time someone resigns and the company has to hire someone new, productivity is lost. Employees who are disengaged produce fewer results and have higher absenteeism. The amount of time that the HR department spends fielding complaints and conducting investigations adds up as well.

I once worked with a high level executive who had worked for the company for many years. He was known for screaming at his Director-level employees, slamming his fist on the desk, and scolding them like children. Not surprisingly, he had the highest turnover in the whole organization. But, it was never his fault. It was the HR department’s fault for hiring the wrong person, or his employee was incompetent, or his direct report just wouldn’t work the 80+ hours per week that he required. Just think about how much better his results could have been if he were able to coach and grow his team into success instead of constantly having huge gaps on the team due to his bullying behaviors.

Top management needs to do a better job identifying what “results” matter within the organization. Of course, revenue, streamlined processes, innovation, and profitability are critical. But, project results involving collaboration should also be measured. Turnover in a manager’s department should be tracked. The ability to get buy in professionally should be expected. Employee satisfaction survey scores should be used.

A company’s brand is extremely important, especially in the social media world we live in today. Organizations need to be bolder by disciplining, and if necessary, terminating those seemingly “untouchable” people. The company will be stronger as a result. We need to remember that everyone is replaceable.