I recently read some research by Professors Stephen Dimmock and William Gerken that looked at the contagiousness of employee fraud. Their findings showed that, in essence, even your most honest employees become more likely to commit misconduct if they work alongside a dishonest individual.
As I thought how this applies to our (or any) organization, I recalled too many examples where we recognized, discussed and debated an employee that was systemically debasing our company virtues but did nothing about it.
There are always common themes (excuses): “If we let him go right now, we put the company at risk” or “Look not everyone is going to be a poster person for our mission” or “Yes their attitude kind of sucks but they are actually doing their job” or “We just need to reset expectations”.
Nonsense! In fact, more than nonsense, it’s dangerous to the health of your organization and profoundly unfair to the rest of the team members. There is a saying in the safety world that a new employee to a site will observe the behaviours of those around him and emulate that behaviour (good or bad). Therefore, if everyone is doing the right thing, they are much more likely to follow suit. This is true for every part of an organization.
Leadership and management must guard against their own biases and inherent need to rationalize their own indecisiveness. Simply put, do the right thing. It is never pleasant and any dismissal must come with a high dose of introspection.
Do the right thing for the health of your team. Act swiftly and send the right message. One bad apple can indeed spoil the bunch.