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How to deal with a 

virus at work


by Miren Menabrito

We are recruitment professionals, therefore we help companies and people to come together... however as the nature of our job is H2H we also advise our clients and candidates alike in how to deal with other scenarios should the need arise. This specific one has come up a lot lately and this is why I have decided to openly share my insights in what is becoming an all too common workplace phenomenon.


Every company has a bad apple. If you deal with this on time, you can correct the person’s attitude towards their company or colleagues (or both), but ignoring the situation will only make things worse. If you choose to ignore such a situation, then you will eventually see yourself or your company in a terrible situation that may be unfixable.


I read once that a bad apple is like a bad virus. What an excellent way to picture it! They can and will infect everyone if you don’t deal with the situation in a timely matter, and this will in turn negatively affect the reputation of your company, team morale, trust & productivity. So from now on let’s stop thinking about these people as a bad apple, but as a “virus”.


So what is a virus at work? In simple terms…

People who don’t respect the company of their peers, bullies who are negative, and employees who don’t accept criticism or their own mistakes and sabotage the work of others.


Here are my tips on how to deal with a “virus” at work:


For peers


   1. Avoid .- if you are a peer of this virus then just avoid having anything to do with them as much as possible.


   2. Escalate .- escalate your thoughts with YOUR line manager. When you do this make sure you have strong examples on WHY you have these thoughts about that person so your line manager can fully understand your concerns, what has been happening, and how this has been affecting you.



For management 


  • Confront the person.- immediately & directly. There is no bigger mistake for a superior than not dealing with problems before they become issues quick enough!   If you don’t do this, you lose your opportunity to deal with the virus. You will demonstrate to the rest of the company that there is no clear protocol in place to deal with problems and if left will then turn into unsolvable issues. In other words, you will disappoint the people that are getting affected, who will then quickly become disengaged with dire consequences for you/the company, therefore they will either leave the company or be another type of virus and believe me, you don’t want that!


  • Address the problem/issue – with details and clear examples!!!! i.e. “When you raise your voice towards a peer/colleague or management, you affect the team, the working environment, and employee morale.” Or “When you don’t follow the company’s processes and procedures you add to the workload of your colleagues.”

Addressing a problem/issue without clear examples will take you nowhere and will actually make the virus stronger. Do not mention any names of peers that may have complained about the person’s behaviour – use “I” or “we” statements instead.


  • Explain what needs to be done/changed.-  be specific:

    • “You need to stop denigrating your colleagues.”

    • “You must never send rude & unprofessional emails”

    • “You must at all times follow processes & procedures”


  • Explain the consequences .- be specific & clear, don’t beat around the bush. Reissue and make clear relevant company policies regarding bullying, grievance & disciplinary procedures and remind the person clearly of next steps if their behaviour does not immediately stop. Remind them that the consequence includes immediate termination. This one-off warning should be made very clear, and make sure to set a clear timeline for immediate and ongoing improvements agreed upon. Also be sure to schedule follow-up meetings with all affected parties to ensure immediate and ongoing change.


  • Follow up .- if the person is still a virus, complaints are still growing and actions haven’t changed, make sure to acknowledge this and get rid of the virus immediately.  Don’t forget to continue to follow up with the affected parties and people that have complained, otherwise you will lose them too.



By following these tips, you leave no room for doubt & no second chance for the virus to continue affecting your team & company. Either they decide to change and continue to build their carer with you & your team, or they decide not to change and leave.


Remember at all times, there is no one that cannot be replaced and that there are always far better apples than bad, just choose carefully!!!!!!!


If you need any advice or help, don’t hesitate to make contact with us, we are here to help!


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