“Being passionate” is not a “bad employee”

Ted Bauer
5 min readNov 15, 2021

This concept is a major confusion point for many managers and executives; I was actually just talking about it over the weekend on email with one such person. There’s a lot that goes into this discussion, though, and I think we can only really paint the edges of it right now. Plus: obviously everyone is unique, thinks about work differently, and considers the trappings of their own success and their own relevance in different ways.

I think the first thing we need to establish, and this is where I’ll already lose a bunch of people, is that there’s honestly no such thing as a bad employee. There are people who exist in the wrong roles, with the wrong bosses, or even in the wrong company. Now, you might recoil and say “Well, if they’re in the wrong company, they’re a bad employee then!” No. Not necessarily. You can move people to another boss, or another role, or another reporting structure (dashed/dotted lines), and oftentimes it gets better. History has millions of these examples, including some famous ones. Hell, Nicki Minaj rose out of Red Lobster because she got a boss who was into flexibility!

Sadly, a lot of employees being seen as “bad” by managers is based on 1–2 interactions the manager didn’t like, and then the manager views themselves as super harried and slammed, and they don’t really have the time to develop or course-correct what’s “bad,” so they move towards a PIP or just start ignoring the person (this is called “absentee management”) and in both cases, the relationship frays and the employee — the “bad” one — is usually out pretty quick.

The grand irony of this is that a lot of times, these managers are also parents. It’s part of why they’re so harried. As a parent, when your kid vomits in the car on shits on the floor, you tend to not place them on a PIP. You try to nurture and understand. Somehow, though, when you enter the walls of Widgets Inc., that mentality goes entirely out the window. Now if someone vomits in the car, i.e. messes up a spreadsheet, you demean them and ignore them for three days. Now, they’re not your child. You didn’t produce them. I get the core difference. But maybe manage like you parent a little bit — mistakes are OK, and people can grow from them. When your kid pulls a pigtail, it doesn’t mean he’s Ted Bundy, does it?

Ted Bauer

Mostly write about work, leadership, friendship, masculinity, male infertility, and some other stuff along the way. It's a pleasure to be here.