We know it's a buyer's market when it comes to filling job openings. With unemployment at a nearly 50-year low, we leaders have to up our game to attract candidates. We know that retaining high performers is hardest of all. So why do we keep our heads in the sand when it comes to teammates who actively hurt retention?

It's counterintuitive, but keeping certain types of employees around scares others off. Some resent picking up others' slack. Others get frustrated with human bottlenecks. Some simply see the writing on the wall when comparing how they're treated with how others are treated.

Before launching my own companies, I was endlessly annoyed with co-workers who insisted we do things the way they'd always been done. I recognized they were rule followers, but they made progress feel like pipe dreams. I eventually scratched the itch to create my own processes.

After working with hundreds of companies over the years, I've noticed that these five types of workers wreak the most havoc on employee retention.

1. Micromanagers

We all know what it's like to master your work and decide it's faster to make sure everyone does things your way (a.k.a. the right way). But micromanagement includes an element of control. Employees become so anxious about responding to a micromanager's needs that they actually get less done. They're not just working; they're also managing the micromanager's expectations.

One young professional shared that her micromanaging boss made her document every single thing she'd done in one day after the day was over -- in 15-minute increments -- which eventually led to her quitting altogether. 

2. Clueless leaders

You might think keeping a clueless but well-intentioned leader around is no big deal. But in 2004, Stanford University shared a concept called the Peter principle, which sums up the issue well: Every employee is promoted to his level of incompetence.

Some leaders think that means they've isolated a low-performing employee by keeping him away from actual work. Instead, his employees lack support and wonder why he, of all people, is in charge.

I once had a manager I liked, but he didn't think about how the company needed to progress. He treated his role like a hobby, something to get to when he wasn't distracted by something else. It was painful to watch him pass over opportunities to improve our team, and I didn't stick around to watch it devolve.

3. Social butterflies

Everyone loves water cooler talk: Favorite TV shows and last night's game are all great distractions when work is stressful. But every office has an employee who does a lot more talking than working, and it inspires resentment in everyone else.

One of my clients had a worker who was well-liked and easy for everyone to talk to. People stopped by regularly to chat with this employee and laughed at the near-constant Facebook updates he provided throughout the day. But frustration simmered below the surface because people knew those nonstop conversations meant no work was really getting done -- by him, anyway.

Social butterflies are usually liked; however, they require others to pick up the work they aren't doing. 

4. Hotheads

People who fly off the handle are effective to some extent -- through sheer terror, they get people to do their bidding. Teammates walk on eggshells to avoid setting these people off. Their rage reads to some as "channeled passion," but it mostly creates a negative atmosphere and safety concerns. That can't be taken lightly in modern workplaces.

Another client had an employee who was a hothead and once threw a chair in a conference room. It bounced off the window and nearly hit another person. That day, she and other colleagues gave their notice. Their safety was too important.

The hotheads often are the cause of many toxic triggers to your culture.

5. Toxic superstars

This category is most highly prized -- superstars perform at a high level, eliminating the need for additional staff or they have the ability to attract highly profitable clients. But at closer examination, these people may be doing the work of three people because they've driven them away through bullying, cutthroat competition, or harassment.

An Inc. 5000 CEO told me he had an employee who worked circles around others, but she was also domineering and a liar. In discussing how many employees had left over the past few months because of her behavior, it became apparent that keeping her around was expensive. Her effect on profits was enormous, but so was her impact on retention.

Keeping everyone on your team around seems like the most logical path to high retention. But keeping these five types of employees on board can actually hurt your comp. Think long and hard about whether you can afford to let one person poison the well everyone drinks from.

Published on: Oct 11, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.