It is certainly understandable to wonder why bad employees don’t get fired. After all, is it not within the best interest of the company to lay off the person who is lazy and gets very little work done? Why does the guy who keeps stealing money from the corporation still have a position? When will the woman who shows up twenty minutes late every day get some disciplinary action or be eliminated from the organization outright?
While watching the futility of others seemingly get rewarded can be an intensely frustrating endeavor, there actually are some reasons why bad employees don’t get fired. They may not be great reasons, and they may not be the best excuses, but the reasons persist nonetheless.
There is an old Dilbert comic that depicts a series of stereotypical office personalities, along with their appearance and how it corresponds to how their peers should respond to them. Under the IT Manager, it shows a rather casual-apparel guy with mussed facial hair and glasses. The caption underneath says something akin to “Worship me, because I am the only one who knows how to fix the server.” It is a simple truth that job security can be found in figuring out how to become the only person in the office who can perform one necessary function. Once that is attained, than as long as the grief you cause is outweighed by the grief that would be causes in the inconvenience of replacing you, then you likely will not get fired. Many people realize this and take advantage of it as much as they can.
Although we would love to pretend, or even truly have a situation, that all supervisors regard their subordinates equally and hold them to the same standards, it simply is not true because people are imperfect. They hold biases based on similarities, whether it is the dark secret truth of racial prejudice still practiced by some, or simply watching a boss be rather forgiving of a particular workplace miscreant because they both happen to love the same football team and watch the same television shows. Otherwise, office politics may get much more complicated than that, but the essence remains the same, in that one person will receive special treatment for a reason that is unrelated to the actual quality of their job performance.
Then there is perhaps the most brutally simple idea behind why bad employees don’t get fired: The management is pervaded by idiocy, and the relevant supervisor are irrational in their dealing with subordinates, or lack professional business sense altogether. It may not be a pretty answer or one that anyone would like to admit to, but stupid people make mistakes, and one way that stupidity is expressed is tolerating the exceedingly poor performance of bad employees.
The troubling mystery of why bad employees don’t get fired may never truly be solved in a single elegant solution; however, as long as you are more focused of solving the mystery of how to avoid getting fired yourself, perhaps worrying about the bad employees around you will become a secondary concern.