Deal With Bad Apples Before They Sour Your Team

by Marcus

Most likely you’ve heard the saying “Hire for skills and fire for attitude.” This means bad attitudes far outweigh the skills people bring to their positions. Failing to take corrective action with these individuals puts companies at risk.

Most businesses employ skilled team members with decent and even great attitudes. They come to work, perform their jobs to a satisfactory or higher level, and contribute to the work environment in mostly positive ways. But what about those team members who have the skills to do their jobs, but damage culture, morale, and operations with their bad attitudes? Chances are, you’re thinking of these people right now.

Any business with one or more of these so-called bad apples must recognize there’s a heightened awareness of these individuals throughout the company. Negative team members are difficult to work with, which damages communication, morale, team dynamics, trust, and results. Other members of the team avoid them and could even harbor resentment toward management and owners for allowing negative individuals to remain in the business. If one of these bad apples happens to be in a management position, the consequences are even more severe.

Wherever they are in your company, negative attitudes will end up costing you talent. Your best people will only put up with so much before they can’t take it anymore and leave. Others in the organization could fall under the influence of a bad apple, putting your culture, customer service, and success at risk. These infected team members will further spread the subversive message and attitude, only deepening dysfunction.

In many cases, business owners and managers tolerate bad apples because it’s expensive and time-consuming to hire and train new people. This is especially true if these team members bring in large amounts of business, hold key positions essential to operations, or possess extensive or proprietary knowledge. Under these circumstances, business leaders often feel held hostage by these team members — which, unfortunately, keeps them from taking necessary corrective action.

Keeping these individuals on board isn’t the best choice. Wise business owners and managers face the situations that come with bad attitudes and initiate corrective action sooner rather than later.

The first step is to free yourself from the belief your business can’t survive without these people. It’s simply not true. I’ve repeatedly helped business owners release this limiting mindset, and the outcomes have been nothing but positive for everyone involved.

If the team member in question is vital to your operation, initiate corrective action by presenting them with a performance improvement plan and offering them professional development with a qualified professional to help them recognize, address, and overcome their negative attitudes and damaging behaviors.

While not an overnight process, a qualified professional development coach can identify a team member who’s willing to change. In cases in which team members choose to accept the information and do the work to change their attitudes, they become a true asset and not a continuing liability.

If they’re not willing or able to change their bad attitudes and behaviors, the next step is an obvious one. You must step up to the plate and let them go. The moment you take this corrective action, your business and everyone in it will be freed of a negative influence.

When replacing team members, it’s wise to put a plan in place to avoid repeating the same situations. Work with a qualified professional who can assist you in creating a benchmark for the position and provide insight into a candidate’s attitude and skill set. When you hire for attitude first, you can teach skills if needed. When you encounter a candidate with both, you have a solid hire.

As a successful business owner or manager, you can’t afford to allow bad apples to hurt your culture, team, and customers. The costs are too high. One of the fundamental factors of success is to build an effective team. No matter how skilled, team members with negative attitudes are never part of a winning team.

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This article was written for and published in collaboration with The Business Times newspaper.


Marcus Straub

Author Marcus Straub

Marcus Straub is Founder and CEO of Life Is Great!™ (LIG) Coaching and Consulting, Inc. based in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Serving individuals of all ages and companies of all sizes, in locations across the country and around the world, Marcus specializes in the development of customized programs tailored to meet the unique goals of each individual client. Purposefully created to guide those involved toward unprecedented personal, professional, and organizational growth, Marcus has become well-known for his straightforward approach and systematic techniques.