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Do Bad Apples Taint Your Business Operations? - Column #205

Marcus Straub
Marcus Straub

The typical business employs 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 — although they have the skills to do their jobs — damage culture, morale and business 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 team members bring in large amounts of business, fill key positions essential to operations or their knowledge of the business is extensive or proprietary. Under these circumstances, business leaders often feel held hostage by these team members, which prevents necessary corrective action.

Any business that employs one or more 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 trust, communications, team dynamics, morale and results. Other members of the team try to avoid them and could resent managers and owners for allowing negative individuals to remain in the business. If one of these bad apples happens to work in a management position, the consequences are even more severe.

Most likely you’ve heard the saying, “Hire for skills and fire for attitude.” Simply put, it means a bad attitude far outweighs the skills people bring to their positions. Failing to take corrective action with these individuals puts a company at risk.

Wherever they are in your company, negative attitudes will cost 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 will fall under the “spell” of the bad apple, putting your culture, customer service and success at risk. These infected team members will further spread a subversive message and attitude, only deepening the dysfunction.

Keeping these individuals on board isn’t 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 too 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 member in question is vital to your operation, present them with a performance improvement plan and offer 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 accept the information and work to change and manage their attitudes, they become a true asset and not a continuing liability.

If, however, 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 within it — will be freed of a negative influence.

When letting go and 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 insight into the attitudes and skill set of 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 or manager, 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 prerequisites of success is to build the most powerful team you can. Individuals with negative attitudes, no matter how skilled they are, can never be a part of this winning team.

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