Rogue employees are like pornography, they are hard to define, but you know them when you see them. (I’m paraphrasing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who described his threshold test for pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio)
There are a lot of different types of Rogue Employees and not one defining characteristic, but the recurring theme is that they are selfish people and they do not care about the company at all. The company exists to give them a paycheck, and whatever else they need. They are not interested in your company’s success. Rogue employees are neither predictable, nor obedient.
I will write a lot about Rogue Employees, who can be so damaging to a business in such a number of ways. They steal, lie, cheat and otherwise cause problems for you. They are scoundrels who resent their employer and the company owners. See my blog post about firing Rogue Employees once you identify them. But can you avoid hiring Rogue Employees in the first place? Maybe. It’s worth the effort to try. One or two Rouges can literally destroy a small company and do significant harm to larger companies. So, it’s worth trying to keep them off of your payroll.
Obviously, do as much background checking as is economically reasonable, within the bounds of the law. Really check references, especially work references. Don’t settle for the name, rank and serial number approach from the former employer’s Human Resources. Try to speak to an actual supervisor of the candidate and ask about the employee’s work performance and attitude. Ask the candidate to sign a waiver allowing the former employer to give a candid assessment. With so many good people looking for jobs in this economy, you should fully vet the candidates to make sure you’re hiring one of the good ones. Strongly consider older candidates who have a long history of being loyal to an employer (although this sounds discriminatory, being young is generally not a protected class in Massachusetts). A loyal employee is the opposite of a Rouge Employee, and is worth her weight in gold.
Also, try to ask the right questions. Ask the candidate to tell you what he thinks his former supervisor would say. You may get a surprising answer. You may see that the candidate is someone who has a lot of excuses and blames others for failures. That could be the type who turns into the dreaded Rogue Employee. Ask the candidate where they fit into the success of their previous employer, and how they see themselves contributing to your firm. Ask them what things their previous employer did right, and did wrong, and see if you get a constructive answer. Listen to what your instincts are telling you and use common sense. Of course, you may need to be able to articulate a non-discriminatory reason for not hiring someone.
And of course, you should do some checking on the internet, including Google and social networks. You have to be careful not to exclude an employee based on a protected class (race, religion, disability, etc., etc.), but there is no prohibition against learning that someone is a scoundrel and refusing to hire them, as long as you are not basing your decision on an illegal, discriminatory reason. This can be tricky, so if you have any questions on whether you can refuse to hire an employee, call me at 617.338.7000.
By Adam P. Whitney