by Judy M McCutcheon
I’ve just started understanding how LinkedIn works, it is actually a great way to get your business noticed. However, LinkedIn like so many other social media platforms has some good influencers – people who are experts in their field and know what they are talking about.
Then there are the others, who make you raise more than one eyebrow by sheer virtue of the content they post and their seemingly “good advice.” Personally, I think some of the things they post are merely for the shock factor, and the reactions they get from others. Reminds me of a certain country and a certain president. There is something very troubling about some of those posts. Many of the posts I see are focused on “bashing” employers, that I wonder sometimes if good employers exist. Don’t get me wrong, there are some employers whose culture is so toxic, that you can get sick by just being within breathing space of the environment. However, that’s not all employers and I can assure you that they are more good employers than there are ‘bad” ones.
In my last article, I wrote about toxic work cultures that make a company’s strategy ineffective, this week, however, I am going to address the issue of employees with unhealthy attitudes. Just as there are managers who should not be dealing directly with people, there are employees who ideally, should be working in a back office by themselves. Of course, that’s not the best way to deal with the situation. Companies who are trendsetters, in terms of the best places to work, will develop as a first step or release. Although it is my humble opinion that you cannot train for attitude, especially an attitude of service. So why do companies put up with employees whose attitude does not reflect the values of the company? The ones who just can’t seem to get it quite right as it relates to their work, or those that can’t get along with anybody and it everybody else’s fault. The ones that really fire me up are the ones who are excellent at what they do, they may even be “superstars” in terms of their technical skills, but their attitude stinks. I worked with someone like that and it was very tiring to deal with her rotten attitude all the time. I dealt with it by befriending her and so was able to tell her how her attitude affected the rest of the team and how she was being viewed by senior management. It took her being fired and struggling a bit in a new job to understand that putting technical abilities aside, your attitude helps to decide whether you grow or go.
We live in a society that somehow seems to thrive on incivility, yet we are surprised when it shows up on the job. Employees come from the society that we have created, just look at the state of customer service. Some employees attitude suggests that they don’t care about your customers, forgetting that without customers, their job is at risk. The cost associated with employees whose attitudes are just plain rude is quite high. A recent survey showed that a “superstar” employee adds just about $5,000 to the company’s bottom line, but a toxic employee cost the company around $12,000 per year. They hurt you more than you know.
So why do companies keep these employees around? From my experience, what I have found is that managers fail to document these negative behaviours. Toxic employees could be confrontational, so managers avoid dealing with them until they are utterly frustrated, at which point they want to pass the problem over to human resource, but without proper documentation most times HR hands are tied. What managers must do as a first step in dealing with these types of employees is to communicate to them clearly that their bad attitude will not be tolerated. It is important that you let them know how their negative behaviour is affecting the rest of the team.
An important point of note here is that managers forget that negative behaviour is a performance issue and it should be reflected in their performance review. I’ve heard managers complain bitterly about the attitude of some employees, yet it is not reflected in their annual performance review, some of these employees get the highest score possible. Another thing companies don’t do is to put consequences in place for negative behaviours. It’s very much like dealing with your kids, if there are no consequences to their unacceptable behaviour, then your discipline is going to be ineffective. As a manager, you must decide if you are going to allow one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch. Sometimes the tough decision must be made, and you must fire that employee, but it is important that you follow the company procedure as well as what is required by law.
Ultimately, the contributions made by that talented yet, difficult employee may not be worth the problems they cause, so it is important that you keep the bigger picture in mind.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net