At my last job, I witnessed the best, most talented people all get fired and laid off — myself included. We all worked tirelessly, never complained, and did what we could to make sure things still worked.
However, we were all canned, while the people who didn't work, made the place toxic, and regularly bullied others continued their tenure there. It was a bad work environment, and it's one that I'm actually pretty relieved to be away from.
But, it also made us all wonder how bad employees get good jobs — or even get picked over the people who really do hard work. My current SO is in a very similar position and has been asking me the same question, too.
So, I decided to take a look at how this phenomenon happens and why bad people end up in good positions.
Personal connections are often a way it happens.
A very wise friend of mine once said that it's not what you know, but who you know, that often gets you the jobs you want. This is very true, regardless of what industry you're in. Connections are everything, and sometimes, bad employees make good connections.
This was a serious issue in at least two of my former jobs. A lot of great talent ends up being passed up or even bullied due to the "boys' clubs" of certain company cultures.
In at least two of the former places I worked, there was a very distinct sign that the worst employees kept their jobs via who they were dating within. Others just hired "good friends" to do the work for them, resumes be damned.
Even if you're not dating that person, the connections you make will make a huge difference in how you're hired. Sadly, that's how bad employees get good jobs and stay in them in many situations.
On the flipside of this, the cultures which had a serious problem with ousting those who weren't all pals didn't seem to fare too well in business. With work turning into a massive replay of Mean Girls, most talent left out of frustration while the company sank due to the poor work ethic of those within.
If you're struggling to survive, you need to network. Capiche?
Some lie on resumes.
One of the most obvious answers to how bad employees get good jobs is the fact that some people lie. Not all potential hires are very ethical about getting their foot in the door — and if it suits them, they'll lie so that they can get the job they want.
We've all heard about people who lie on their resumes and get caught. But, let's be honest, most of us don't hear about the ones who don't get caught. It's very possible that they only qualified for the job they have because they pulled a Pinocchio.
If HR doesn't confirm each degree and certification, there's no telling that they were the least bit truthful about their qualifications.
Charm is often used.
This goes back to connections and the power of human charisma. If someone says they're qualified loud enough, someone will listen. If you have a charmer with a nice smile and a magnetic personality, then yes, they may just end up charming interviewers into giving them a position.
However, just because they can act nice doesn't mean they can perform well on a daily basis. More often than not, people will drop the facade of a good employee when they believe that they are "in the clear," or if they feel they no longer have reason to stay in line.
Most really bad employees know that it takes a lot of red tape to actually fire a person after a set period of time. So, they wait until that time is up — and stop caring about work.
At times, bosses may be aware that their employees suck.
You would be shocked at how many bosses are very well aware that they hired bad people. They do this when they want to "clear house" of the kinda unfireable good employees at times — and that's how bad employees get good jobs.
The funny thing about this is that those good jobs don't usually stay too good. If all the good employees go to the wayside, the company tends to fold as a result.
There's not really much to say that the job offer is real, either. They're often temporary positions. Managing bad employees also can get pretty hard, so many managers who use the "clear house" tactic will come up with a way to fire the bad guys once the people they originally want gone are out.
If anything, these people are basically just tools to get things done — not actual employees.
Blackmail or bribery may be involved.
I have personally heard of at least one boss who was blackmailed into hiring a bad employee. I've also heard about situations where people bribed their way into a job via connections to companies and other similar things.
The most common way I've heard of blackmail working to get a person hired is emotional blackmail. This is where you hear about people who have major sob stories and similar issues that they tell to the hiring manager, so that the manager feels obligated to give them a hand.
So, yes, this is how bad employees get good jobs — in some rare cases. That being said, blackmail isn't something most groups will tolerate. So, it all depends on the situation and the kind of manager that you have in your company.
More often than not, though, bad employees are super cheap.
If you ever wonder how bad employees get good jobs, look at your wallet. Good, hard labor costs a lot more than bad, disposable labor. More often than not, the people who hire obviously bad employees don't view them as potential assets; they view them as expendable people who won't act as whistleblowers.
Good employees are a threat to bad management, especially if you're assertive. If you work in a company where bad management reigns supreme, you will not have a good career. You will not max out your potential.
As I've noted before, at times like this, it's often for the best to be fired or to look for greener pastures elsewhere. You don't want to be part of a sinking ship, and it's always possible to switch careers successfully if you're careful.