We often get asked by business leaders what they should do to correct an employee with a bad attitude. You know the kind of person we are talking about; they show up late, under-produce, and always seem to have something negative to say. We all have our bad days, but for this person, this bad apple, it seems like every day is a bad day. And that kind of negativity can spread quickly throughout the workforce.
According to a study by Will Felps, Associate Professor of Organization and Personnel Management at Rotterdam School of Management, groups with bad apples performed 30 to 40 percent worse than groups without a bad apple. Also, having a bad apple on the team results in less communication between others and can cause other good employees to exhibit bad apple behaviors.
Some might think that simply terminating the employee with the bad attitude is the best way to get your team back on track, but that simply is not true. Coaching bad apples and turning them into productive employees is much more cost effective than finding new employees. In a study conducted by the Center for American Progress, the cost of losing an employee can fall anywhere between 16% of salary value for hourly, entry-level employees, to 213% of salary value for highly-skilled employees.
Instead of termination, follow these simple steps to get the employee back on track:
Explore the reason for the bad attitude
Without stepping over boundaries, try to find out if there is an underlying reason for the bad attitude. Often unfair (or the perception of unfair) rewards or punishments can lead to animosity in the workplace. Lack of transparency and mistrust can are also common causes of negativity. Is there a recent situation you can think of that might have caused the employee to develop a bad attitude? If so, try to find a way to correct that. Acknowledge missteps by leadership, if there are any, and try to open up the lines of communication with the employee.
Focus on the behaviors that need changing, instead of the attitude
You can’t coach someone to change their attitude. Instead, focus on the negative behaviors that are a result of the bad attitude and coach employees on improving those. This needs to be something that can be measured. For example, if you have an employee who is showing up late for meetings, or not responding to emails in a timely manner, these are things you can document as performance issuer and then work through a coaching plan to turn around. The same is true for rude behaviors, such as someone rolling their eyes, or gossiping.
Make sure that all employees understand what behaviors are expected of them at work, so they are not surprised if you come to them with a coaching plan.
Set clear objectives for improvement with deadlines
Once you determine what behaviors need to change, set clear objectives for performance and a deadline for measurable improvement. Write these down and make sure the supervisor and employee both agree on both the timeline and the expectations.
Following these three simple steps will allow the supervisors on your team to turn around employees with bad attitudes and tune them in to high-performing and hopefully even engaged employees.
Looking for more help coaching employees? Check out our Coaching Employees to Better Performance Toolkit. Share it with your whole leadership team and empower them to improve your organization.