NFL Highlighting How ‘Problem Generators’ Affect These 5 Components of Your Business

Nov 14, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 11.20.45 AMFootball, and in particular the NFL, is a big part of my life. Not only do I enjoy the game and all it has personally done for me, I enjoy all the lessons about business management it has to offer. In the latest rounds of NFL scandals the Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito was accused and tried in the media for work place harassment. It has caused another valuable member of its offense of line, Jonathan Martin, to quit the team and create a storm of controversy about the culture of the NFL locker rooms. Is this commonplace? Is it generally accepted behavior for professional football players? Probably not. As this controversy continues, we may find out differently. From what many of the experts are saying this is simply a case of mismanagement, and a player or players out of control.

In the business world, degrees of “problem generators” like Incognito exist; these are the people with the bad attitudes masked by talent. In some companies they are more prevalent than others. Many organizations actually seek to eliminate these problem generators and prevent them from ever being hired using some of the techniques and tools suggested in this Simple Guide to Interviewing for Attitude. One bad apple can cause a lot of damage, and the evidence is obvious when the promising Miami Dolphins lose to the winless Tampa Bay on Monday night mostly due to the loss of two key players.

Problem generators create host of subtle but extremely damaging side effects. Here are my top five areas that are affected the most by a problem generator.


Highlighting the recent events, this type of behavior in most companies can lead to expensive litigation or settlements. The Miami Dolphins’ negative press and subsequent inquisition highlights how damaging just one incident can be. Aside from the direct fallout of a serious harassment claim, this can greatly affect the culture of business.


Most companies have spent a lot of time and effort into creating a culture to foster a friendly, competitive, and productive environment. When problem generators go wild or begin to duplicate within organizations, the company culture begins to change for the worse. What used to be a work hard, play hard environment turns into a nightmare, scaring away your most productive good-natured people and tarnishing a company’s reputation. This obviously leads to higher turnover.


Once problem generators take over, retaining great people becomes almost impossible. These people see it early on and make decisions not to stay. I have a close friend who works for a company blinded by increasing sales revenue. The sales team will say and do anything to put a deal together, even if it directly undercuts the company’s core values or puts the company in jeopardy for violating any number of federal or local compliance codes.

As a person in a compliance role, he is constantly being slandered and harassed in hopes he will risk his job for their greed. This has driven many great support staff people to leave, and another one is on the way.


In these wobbly economic times, local and federal governments and their watchdogs are on the lookout for companies who don’t like to follow the rules. When people feel like they are above the law or not responsible for keeping their company compliant with the numerous regulations most companies face, they are opening the door to scrutiny. Anyone been involved in a workplace safety violation understands this well. One major accident caused by a rogue employee who thinks they are better than the rules opens the door to grueling OSHA compliance audits no one wants to deal with.


Safety might be the most forgotten side effect of employees with bad attitudes. Those who undermine authority and shirk responsibility for their own actions put everyone at risk. These people work in our warehouses, drive our trucks, operate critical equipment, and more. All of these things drive our businesses forward. Minor accidents are preventable and serious accidents are unacceptable. They are all preventable if the people on your team have the right attitude. You see versions of this slogan plastered about most companies but really it starts with management and their hiring decisions.

Problem generators come in all forms in the business world. The NFL provides us a national spotlight to focus on these terrors within our organizations. There are two simple keys to solving these problems:

  • Don’t hire these bad attitude people to begin with. Put in place assessments and interview practices to ensure these people never make it to the floor.
  • When a problem generator is identified, move quickly to correct the problem. A strict disciplinary process describing how the problem generator’s attitude is affecting one of these key business functions will help you show these people the door legally and swiftly.

How does your company prevent problem generators from penetrating your business?