Dealing with Difficult Employees


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In my four decades of experience in the business world, I’ve encountered my fair share of problem employees. Today, I want to share a personal story about dealing with employees who thrive on creating turmoil, upset, and chaos, often behind your back. I’m focusing on individuals like sneaky Sam and covert Chris, employees who may or may not be producing but are experts in creating noise and confusion within your organization.

Problem Employees: Two Distinct Categories

These problematic employees generally fall into two categories. In one category, you’re paying them, but they’re not delivering the expected results. For instance, if you’re compensating an employee $1,000 a week to produce 10 widgets, and they only manage to provide you with two while offering countless excuses and distractions, you’re dealing with a significant problem. It’s evident that they’re not meeting their end of the deal.

On the flip side, the second category includes employees who do manage to deliver the required output but create chaos in the background. It’s like paying for 10 widgets, receiving them, but also enduring a constant barrage of noise, complaints, and reports about their heroic efforts in unrelated areas. It can be a challenging situation to navigate, and it’s a common issue that many businesses face.

The Impact of Covert Chaos

Dealing with these covert employees can be especially challenging because they operate in stealth mode, often causing turmoil in areas of your business where you can’t directly pinpoint their involvement. They’re like shadowy figures behind the scenes, leaving a mess in their wake. As an employer or manager, it’s frustrating because you can’t always conclusively prove their involvement. They’re covert for a reason, and it’s important to understand the strategies to deal with them effectively.

A Personal Story: Unmasking Roxanne

To illustrate these challenges, I’ll share a personal story from my dental practice. Let’s call the employee in question Roxanne. Roxanne was a top producer; she delivered the 10 widgets, but the chaos she created within the team became undeniable. Whenever there was an upset staff member, Roxanne seemed to be connected to the situation somehow. I started to observe her actions more closely, noticing secretive conversations in her treatment room and other disruptive behaviors.

It’s important to remember that this dilemma isn’t unique to the business world; it happens in sports too. Think of a star athlete who excels on the field but creates chaos in the locker room and on social media, damaging team morale and culture. Back to Roxanne, as a producer, she was excellent, but the collateral damage was taking a toll on my team and my practice.

The Decision to Dismiss Roxanne

Ultimately, I had to make a difficult decision: I dismissed Roxanne. While she was a top producer, the noise and chaos she generated were no longer worth it. It turned out she had been cleverly manipulating situations to her advantage. For instance, when a cancellation occurred, she would create a commotion at the front office, causing them to reassign patients from other hygienists to her. This was all part of her PR strategy – claiming to be my most valuable asset.

Dismissing an employee is a significant step and should be approached with caution, as there are legal requirements in place for employee termination in most regions. Compliance is essential, as failing to follow legal protocols can lead to repercussions for your business. Verbal and written warnings, in line with state and country laws, are usually necessary before termination.

Handling Employee Dismissal

While dismissing employees is a difficult task, it’s crucial when dealing with sneaky Sam’s and covert Chris’s. These employees may have escaped your radar for some time, but they must go. They’ve been undermining your organization and causing turmoil behind your back. It’s essential to take the right steps to protect your business and your team.

The Positive Outcomes of Employee Dismissal

In my case, letting go of Roxanne had a surprisingly positive impact on my dental practice. I saw a remarkable 25% improvement in performance the following month, better than any previous month in 11 years. This proves that while it may be tough to dismiss a productive employee, it can lead to significant improvements in your business’s overall performance.

Recognizing the Covert Chris and Sneaky Sam in Your Organization

The key takeaway from this experience is that, as an employer or manager, it’s essential to remain vigilant and investigate when you suspect there may be a sneaky Sam or covert Chris hiding within your organization. Ignoring these issues and convincing yourself that these employees are valuable can lead to long-term damage to your business and team morale.

If you’re dealing with similar challenges in your organization, know that you’re not alone. These issues are frequent in the business world, and we at Matterhorn Business Development help clients address them on a regular basis. We have the expertise to identify and manage problem employees and help you maintain a healthy, productive work environment.

Take Action and Reach Out

If you’re interested in working with us personally to tackle the issue of problematic employees, don’t hesitate to visit our website and submit an application. Let’s see if we can work together to improve your business and address the challenges posed by sneaky Sam’s and covert Chris’s.


Dealing with sneaky and covert employees can be a real challenge, but it’s crucial to recognize their actions and take the necessary steps to address the situation. Whether it’s reevaluating your team, providing clear expectations, or, in some cases, making the tough decision to dismiss, you must protect your business and maintain a productive work environment. Remember, you’ve worked hard to build your business, and you deserve to have a team that truly supports your success.

How We Can Help

Visit now to access personal mentoring from our expert Matterhorn team. Complete a quick application on the site to get started on your journey towards success. See you there!

About Greg Wintereg

Greg founded Matterhorn Business Development to assist small business owners in growing their businesses and increasing profitability at the same time.
He was an internationally recognized lecturer, sales trainer, and management consultant who spent close to 30 years working with professionals and small business owners across the US and Canada.
In 2019, he authored his book “Fun at Work.”