Leadership When a Key Employee Becomes Defiant

Do problem employees challenge your leadership? An employee which is often a key employee refuses to follow company procedures and dictates how they will do their job.

The leader becomes handcuffed because he is afraid to hold the employee accountable and/or reprimand them for not following company policy. The employee knows the leader is afraid to act and continues their behavior in a cat and mouse game that dares the leader to do something. Unfortunately, the leader rarely acts on the dare.

What is the harm if the employee is a high performer and they bring results? A leader who allows this to happen can cause reduced business performance and have an adverse effect on company culture. Allowing this to happen creates a two-tier system where there is one set of rules for high performers and another set for the rest. This can cause dissention as the rest of organization sees the favoritism and pulls back their efforts and their productivity not to mention refusing to follow procedures themselves citing the actions of the key employee.

Once all efforts to motivate and inspire the employee to follow company procedures have failed the leader must act. He must begin to reprimand the employee to comply and failing that termination must be considered and acted on. Am I crazy?? How dare I suggest firing a key employee.

Follow These Two Leadership Laws With Key Employees

  1. No employee is more important or bigger than the company.
  2. Never put your company in a position that an employee becomes so important that leaving would have a significant adverse effect on the business.

3 Leadership Strategies to Reduce Dependency on Key Employees

  1. A good leader always have redundancy in his business. There should be someone to back up every position. Just as stage productions have understudies in case an actor becomes sick or is on a day off the same should be done in your business.  Your business should not be stifled because one person is not available.
  2. If the key employee is in sales or customer service have a team system where if one person is gone the customer knows who else on the team they can call so the transition is seamless. In the case of very large customers it is imperative that management has a relationship with that customer to ensure the organizational relationships continue.
  3. Have a CRM or work share platform that allows for easy sharing of information.

As a leader if you prepare and structure your business properly losing the key employee should have a negligible if any effect on your business. The positive outcome is that the rest of the organization will “get the message”, will follow procedures and will often band together to pick up the slack producing better net outcomes. In other words, your organization will be better off.

Suggested Reading: Building Company Culture

Tony Malyk

Tony Malyk is a Certified Professional Business Coach and Business Value Accelerator specializing in improving profitability and increasing business value in the manufacturing, distribution, trades and technology sectors.