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Don’t Let “Bad Apples” Spoil Your Business Success - Column #179

Marcus Straub

Marcus Straub

You’ve likely heard the saying, “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 puts companies at risk.

The typical business has a number of skilled team members, many with decent and even great attitudes. They come to work, perform their jobs to a satisfactory level or above 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 the culture, morale and operations? Chances are, you’re thinking of these people right now.

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 bad apples are also top performers,  bring in a lot of business, occupy positions essential to operations or possess extensive or proprietary knowledge. Under these circumstances, business leaders often feel held hostage by these team members, which keeps them from taking necessary corrective action.

Any business with one bad apple or more must recognize there’s an awareness of these individuals throughout the company. Negative team members are difficult to work with, which damages communications, morale, team dynamics, trust and ultimately results. Other members of the team avoid them and could even harbor resentment toward management and owners for allowing negative individuals to remain on the job. 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 culture, customer service and success at risk. These infected team members will further spread subversive attitudes and messages, deepening the dysfunction.

Continuing to keep these people on board is not the best choice. Wise business owners and managers face the situation that comes 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. 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 members in question are vital to your operation, start by presenting them with a performance improvement plan and offering them professional development to recognize and overcome negative attitudes and damaging behaviors.

While not an overnight process, a qualified professional development coach can quickly identify a team member who’s willing to change. In cases in which affected team members accept the information and work to change and manage their attitudes, they become assets rather than a continuing liability.

If they’re not willing or able to change their bad attitudes and behaviors, however, 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 within it will be freed from the 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 create a job benchmark for the position and provide insights into the attitudes and skills of those in your candidate pool. 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 business owner, you can’t afford to allow bad apples to hurt your culture, team and customers. The costs to your business are far too high.

One of the fundamental secrets to success is to build the most powerful team you can. Individuals with negative attitudes, no matter how skilled, can never be a part of this winning team.

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