Business Mentor Tip – Handling a ‘Virus’ Employee

Grow Your Confidence with a Business Mentor

As Business Mentors we work with all size of businesses and across all types of industries. One of the many challenges for business owners is occasionally dealing with bad behaviour from staff. If unchecked bad behaviour grows just as the bacteria in a virus multiplies.

Many of the businesses we work with have and have had “virus” employees in their business.

What is a Virus Employee?

One example was in the form of an employee who left the business two hours early on a Friday when the Owner was out seeing a client.

I asked the owner what he had done to deal with the situation, and he rather sheepishly admitted that he hadn’t done anything. He hoped it wouldn’t happen again. 

What do you think happened? Well, that staff member repeatedly left the business early, others were infected with the same virus, and they too started to leave early, come in late and take longer than agreed lunch breaks.

I was intrigued why the Owner had not tackled the situation. It was partly down to not liking confrontation, not really knowing how to and not wanting to upset the applecart.

For help with your business and to book a complimentary mentoring session contact us on: 0845 680 3634 or email

A Virus Comes In Many Forms

A “virus” can come in many formats, it could be resistance to change when you might hear the words, “We’ve always done it this way!”  It could be negativity in meetings and throughout the business, gossiping about other members of staff or under performance due to lack of effort. We have experienced many other similar situations over the years.

If you do not deal with these situations the “virus” will in all likelihood start infecting others in the business, affect performance and become increasingly frustrating for you. It will be very difficult for your business to thrive.

So how do you tackle it?

It may well help you to write down on a piece of paper a few details of the issue to get it straight in your head, maybe along the following lines:

  • Who do I need to have a conversation with and when?
  • What specifically is the issue or issues?
  • How is it impacting on the business or other staff?
  • What will be the benefit to the staff member, me and the business in discussing this?
  • What do I want the outcome to be?

Once you have a clear view of what you need to do:

  1. Invite the person into a private location
  2. Keep calm. The moment you raise your voice you have lost control.
  3. Start by asking how they are, this gives the opportunity for the individual to tell you if there are any underlying issues (ill health, family problems etc) that you are not aware of that may be driving the behaviour.
  4. Ask do you know what I want to discuss with you? This establishes whether they are aware of the issue and have maybe been expecting the chat.
  5. Outline what it is that you wish to discuss, the behaviour, the impact on the business, others and yourself. Keep it factual. Have your facts to hand. Otherwise it’s easy for the meeting to turn into a character assassination and for both parties to become emotional.
  6. Ask lots of open questions (who, what, why, when, where, how) to find out if there are any underlying issues
  7. Ultimately you need that person to agree to change their attitude. No amount of coaching can get someone to change if they don’t want to, it’s down to them. You must explain that you expect to see an attitude change when they leave the room. You cannot have someone behave like this in your business.
  8. In the majority of cases, having this candid conversation with the member of staff will be sufficient and an apology and agreement to change the given behaviour will be forthcoming.
  9. If the staff member refuses to change to improve the situation, verbal and written warnings, sooner or later leading to termination of their employment may be the only answer you have left.

By following the route outlined above you will help to create a business environment where your staff will see that bad behaviour including underperformance is not tolerated and gets dealt with.

Remember if you don’t address bad behaviour: 

  • You are condoning it and in effect saying “It’s acceptable in this business to act and behave like that”
  • Your staff will lose respect for you – they will consider you a weak leader
  • Other staff will follow suit
  • The bad behaviour will get worse

Hire A Business Mentor In Your Area

So, what does a Business Mentor do to support business owners in some of the situations mentioned above? We would discuss the issue with the owner including how they intend to deal with it and the kind of conversation that will have.

We may also use specific coaching techniques to help the owner to see the issue from both sides. Once we have helped business owners in this way, they feel far more confident in addressing the issues and more ‘in control’ of their business.