Removing a negative influence

We all want our employees to have a good attitude. We do much to encourage that. We pay as much as we can, offer as many benefits as possible, bear with them when they “can’t make it in today,” make sure they get plenty of breaks and generally try to be good employers.

But sometimes an employee’s attitude just goes south. It may be that they have problems in their lives we cannot help them with and that are too overwhelming for them to leave them at the door when they get to work. Once this happens, there at least a million ways in which this one person’s negativity can adversely affect the entire shop.

I used to feel somewhat responsible for these emotional downturns. I would spend many hours that I really did not have, trying to help the person lift their spirits. Ultimately I realized that there was little I could do.

In the end, I decided to be a bit less forgiving. I would simply take the person aside and very honestly tell them that their attitude was causing a problem and if they could not figure out a way to correct it, I was going to have to let them go. If they genuinely seemed to want to do something about the issues, I would try to work with them but I would make it clear that they were on probation and that, if there was not significant improvement, their employment would be terminated.

Unfortunately, this rarely produced a positive effect. More often than not, the effect was just the opposite and ultimately, I would end up letting them go simply to remove the negative influence from the shop.



  • Steve says:

    Removing a negative person from your working environment may be unpleasant but it is a very positive thing for the group. At times,I’ve cut too much slack to employees who didn’t deserve it. In retrospect, it was often more about avoiding confrontation than compassion – not my finest management.

  • Sad but true. Loosing a valuable employee is hard, but trying to fix an entire shop is even harder.
    I had to deal with an employee who separated from his wife. I brought up his poor work performance and pointed out that although his personal life might be in disarray, at least he didn’t have to worry about employment as long as he could work. If he just used his 8 hours a day plus that he worked as a period of peace and stability he could uss his evenings to fix his personal life. He was let go about 3 weeks later.
    Leave your personal life at the door. Outside when you get to work and inside when you leave.

  • Mark Slafkes says:

    If I had learned this lesson soon enough I would have saved myself loads of grief and lots of money. What you’re saying is wise!

  • Gregory Pace says:

    Outside influences brought in “yes”, Inside influences causing the problems “?” As an employer we must give it a honest investigation, not long, just honest, then react. I agree, 1 bad apple does spoil the whole bunch.

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