Deal with bad apples before they spoil your business

Marcus Straub

Most businesses employ skilled team members, many 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 — even though they have the skills to do their jobs —damage culture, morale and business operations through their bad attitudes? Chances are, you’re thinking of these people right now.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Hire for skills and fire for attitude.” Simply put, 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.

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, work in positions essential to operations or have extensive or proprietary knowledge.

Under these circumstances, business leaders could feel as though they’re being held hostage by these team members. Unfortunately, that can prevent necessary corrective actions.

Any business with one bad apple or more 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 try to avoid them and could even harbor resentment toward managers and owners for allowing these people to remain in the business. If one of these bad apples happens to work in a management position, the consequences are even more severe.

Wherever they are in your company, negative attitudes cost you talent. Your best people will only put up with so much before they 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 spread subversive attitudes and messages, deepening dysfunction.

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

The first step is to free yourself of the belief your business can’t survive without these people. It’s simply not true. Time and time again I’ve helped business owners release this limiting mindset. 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 development with a qualified professional to help them recognize and overcome their bad attitudes and damaging behaviors.

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

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

When replacing team members, it’s wise to have a solid plan in place to avoid reproducing the same situations. Work with a qualified professional who can help you establish a benchmark for the position and provide insight into the attitudes and skills of candidates. When you hire for attitude, you can teach skills if needed. When you encounter a candidate who has both, you have a solid hire.

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