Is a Poisonous Attitude Reason to Fire an Employee?

An employee with a tremendous amount of knowledge is bitter and angry all of the time. She is very good at her job. She also believes that everyone else is incompetent at theirs. This person used to have a leadership position but no longer does.

She was very harsh and critical and used her authority to bully people on her team. She used security cameras to make personal records of everyone’s activities. No one knows of any practical reason for this.

In her reduced capacity she apparently still keeps records of anything anyone does that she does not approve of. She is very unhappy with the person who took her old job, and her new supervisor as well.

She has been spoken to about her constant gossip on the floor and negative attitude. The result of those talks is that she only complains when her supervisor is not around to hear. She is (nearly) always polite to everyone while they are in front of her, but that stops when they walk away.

So, this angry and negative person does a very good job. She is always at work, always on time. She is careful not to be too critical when supervisors or managers are around. She is also quick to spread rumors, to go ‘over’ her lead with issues.

Despite her skills, I believe that her attitude is poisoning the team. Is this a reason to fire someone? How would you go about letting such an employee go? If you would keep her, what tactics could be used to contain the venom?

To read the answer, click here; Is a poisonous attitude reason to fire an employee?

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3 thoughts on “Is a Poisonous Attitude Reason to Fire an Employee?

  1. As with other areas of performance, behavior must be addressed and documented. I really liked Suzanne’s method and agree wholeheartedly. I would throw in some caution.
    1. Emotions may be running high, OP should do his/her best to stick to the facts. If and when the person gets emotional, do not rise to the occasion.
    2. She may not see herself as the problem. Be sure to document, document, and document. Third-party accounts are good but they should be written, signed, and alluded to, but not shown directly. She will want to know who said what about her, which could lead to further harassment and bullying.
    3. When discussing the issues, do not use the word, “attitude.” This will be difficult since it seems that’s exactly what it is. However, “attitude” is a trigger word that will raise her shields, put her on the defensive, lead to emotions, and an unproductive meeting.
    4. Stick to the facts about her. She will likely try to bring up a slew of other things that will be an attempt to deflect the issues at hand and/or drag others down with her. Further, and I say this from experience, keep control of the meeting. This is not a negotiation, this is a disciplinary action. She doesn’t have to agree. She doesn’t have to sign. But she does need to leave the meeting with an understanding that if her behavior does not change, her services will no longer be required.
    5. On that last bit, if she says she would rather resign, then accept it then and there. No matter how productive she may be, the fact that she is creating a hostile work environment overrides that because her behavior is causing others to be less effective and/or productive. I might even go so far as to say that she may think herself indispensable. Do not buy into that.
    Two other things. First, and this can be used for lots of situations, if things start to escalate emotionally, put your hands together in the “time out” sign. It is fairly universal and can help to de-escalate a situation. Secondly, maybe sit and review her overall contribution to the team and organization. Do they merit keeping her or would it be better to move on? No matter how much she may contribute, the poisonous atmosphere isn’t worth it.
    Good luck and I would be interested to hear how it works out.

  2. I’m confused about the suspension part. If she’s exempt and works the other 4 days in the week, don’t they have to pay her whole salary for the week?

    I have a question. (Yes, I know we won’t get an answer.) Is she just a negative person or are there things in the work environment that contribute to the negativity? Are others just letting her vent or are they agreeing with her? If others are agreeing with her, you might have bigger problems.

    1. A full day suspension can be without pay. A partial day suspension can’t be.

      And yes, if others are agreeing with her, it’s a much bigger problem! I suspect they are not.

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