There are going to be employees in your organization who may have gotten inside your team because of exceptional work for the first few months – and then turn into toxic, back-biting, menacing assassins in the following months. Usually after they get regularized. How do you deal with these kinds of employees?
The first step is the trickiest one. How do you identify these employees? Is there a way to be certain WHO the cancer cells are in your organization?
Thankfully, the answer is YES!
Author’s Note: I am only able to write these things because I have personally experienced cancer cell employees in my organization(s) and I hope that other entrepreneurs do not go through the same horrible experiences. Some of the examples mentioned here may have been real experiences that I have experienced before.,
Here is how you Identify them:
1) They are not Team Players
Cancer cells are employees who generally don’t work well with others. If you think that they do, it’s probably because they are in a position where they don’t directly work with anyone else in your organization.
For example, if I have only one accounting personnel and he/she has a fairly good relationship with other people in my organization, that does not automatically mean he/she is a good team player – because he/she does not work directly with any of them. The moment I place someone who works directly alongside my accounting personnel, he/she will bite the new team player.
That is one very strong evidence of that person being a cancer cell
2) They do not have the Organization’s Best Interests in Mind
Cancer cells will try to manipulate and bend the rules to their advantage. Sure, they may relent to your decision once in a while, but they are thinking toxic, rebellious and poisonous things behind your back. What’s worse is that they will spread these things to your other team players – creating needless gossip and slander.
In the end, all of the evidences that you uncover about this employee is going to point that he/she worked for his/her best interests – above everyone else’s – even above your organization which is technically paying for his/her own salary as well.
3) They Refuse to Work Under Authority
Perhaps the easiest way to identify cancer cells is to check if they can work under authority. There are times when you need to test if they can respect and commit to your decision even if they don’t like it. This is extremely important because as leaders and business owners, we are not perfect people. We make mistakes. We make bad decisions.
What is important is, if you make a bad decision, do you have everyone else’s buy-in? Because if you don’t, the moment your bad decision blows up (even if you had the best intentions about that decision), this cancer cell will get everyone talking behind your back against you.
Good team players and loyal team players in your organization will commit 100% to your decision IN SPITE OF them not agreeing with you 100%.
The good thing about this identification process is that even if you did not make a bad decision, if the cancer cell doesn’t like it (even if it’s a very, very good decision that is for the good of the entire organization) , the cancer cell will round up other people in your organization to go against you with poisonous, rebellious, back-biting words. When this happens, your lieutenants and captains in the organization will be able to identify this, bring the news to you – and you’ll be able to have a reality-check about the cancer cell in that moment.
4) They Hold Themselves and their own Interests Above Others
Cancer cells will try to bend rules and manipulate your other team players into agreeing with them. This is because cancer cells will ALWAYS hold their interests above others – above your entire organization. However, they will NEVER admit to this. Obviously because it is self-incriminating. The thing about cancer cells, is that they are smart people. And they will try to get their own way at all times – even resorting to despicable means.
5) If they are in a Position of Management or Control, they do not Apply their own Rules to Themselves
Of course, the cancer cell will not showcase this truth in situations where the cancer cell would be easily found out. What will happen is something like this:
Let’s take for example, if you have a cancer cell who owns the HR manager position, this employee will try to exemplify the perfect employee – as supposedly so. In reality, this is a facade so that the cancer cell can keep that position in your organization and use the authority for their own leverage.
They will serve memos or notices to people in the organization that they don’t have a relationship with or dislike the most – and they will defer or simply, but very subtly refuse to give memos or notices or suspensions to people in your organization who they have a good relationship with. People who they owe favors to. Or people who are simply beneficial to the cancer cell.
6) They are Often Two-Faced – saying one thing in front of peers and another in front of the upper management
Cancer cells are usually smart people – perhaps your smartest people in the organization. That’s the problem. These people can easily hold a good poker-face. Making it very difficult for you to identify them through this method.
This is why having lieutenants in your team is extremely important. These are people who you know you can trust. People whose loyalty to you are unwavering. These are the people who you take care of the most – because they take care of you and your organization.
This identification method entails that the cancer cell does the wrong thing of talking back-biting, rebellious, poisonous words about you or the upper management to your lieutenant. Once that happens, your lieutenant then reports this to you – then you have to make sure to take note of this and do whatever is necessary to excise the cancer cell immediately.
7) They Discreetly but Intentionally Monopolize a Position of Authority or Management for Themselves
There will be a time when you mistakenly hire a cancer cell for a position of authority – and they hold ultimate power because no one else is in the department.
Take my initial example – if I have only one accounting personnel in my entire accounting department, this person wields 100% autonomy in the department. If that person turns out to be a cancer cell, it spells disaster for the entire company as accounting is a very sensitive department.
If you ask that accounting personnel to hire another one to help spread the autonomy, the answer would usually be yes BUT he/she will keep on indefinitely DELAYING – trying their best to defer or outright eliminate hiring for their department as they desire to monopolize the department for themselves. As an 8-year entrepreneur and founder of 4 startups, a monopolized department is inevitable. This is why it is extremely important to take your time in hiring – never get a cancer cell for a critical department such as HR, Accounting, R&D, or any managerial position.
In any case, if you have a monopolized position, take it upon yourself to have some common sense and hire another person for that department to spread the autonomy and authority.
What do you do with Cancer Cells once they are Inside?
Remove them quickly.
If they are still on a probationary position, that is your easiest ticket out. DO NOT REGULARIZE THEM.
If they are already regular employees, take precautionary measures against them. Make sure that their damages are contained within strong and healthy cells in your organization – your most trusted people. Your lieutenants. Do not allow their poison to spread further.
Sooner than later, their back-biting, selfishness and toxicity will come to light. Accumulate that – only the truth. And use it to protect your entire organization from dying.
Be very quick and swift.
What if the Cancer has Spread?
If the cancer has spread, you need to purge it out – the unfortunate thing about purging is that it is costly.
It could be in the form of a company retreat where you need to reinstate your position in the organization. You need to regain the trust of your good team players as morale and trust steeply decline when the cancer cell has done his/her job and spread all the negativity in your team.
It could also mean replacing good teammates who have turned into very bad eggs. Some can be redeemed, others need to be let go. You have to have excellent discretion in doing this. Pray and ask God for wisdom.
I hope that this guide will help you as this could mean saving a lot of entrepreneurs out there a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of good people in the team.