New York, NY—It’s every manager’s nightmare: the superstar who’s great for revenue but terrible for staff morale. Image: Monster.com
How do you handle a star employee with a bad attitude? This article in the December issue of Entrepreneur magazine offers six different executives’ ideas for resolving it, but one thing they all agree on: it’s bad for business and can’t be allowed to continue, no matter how brilliant the employee is otherwise. Here a brief summary of what they suggest (read the full versions here):
1. Approach the employee with a true desire to find out what’s driving their behavior and offer support to help it change, but don’t excuse it. And if it doesn’t change, they need to go.
2. Identify the reason for their attitude, and use the conversation as a two-way learning experience to see if there are areas in your organization or your communication that need improvement.
3. Cut them loose. A bad attitude can have a lasting negative impact far beyond their productivity numbers.
4. Offer both support and clear expectations. In a one-on-one conversation (phones off!), state the problem, its impact on the business, and the behavioral changes needed. Express your belief in their talents and skill, lay out a plan of action for change including how you will support them, but also be clear about the consequences if the changes don’t happen.
5. Dig deeper. Again, use the opportunity for a two-way learning experience to see if there are issues elsewhere that need attention. Ask questions like “If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?” or “If you could restructure your workday, what would it look like?” to glean valuable information they might not know how to share otherwise.
6. Prevent it in the first place. Regular communication and feedback can help keep egos in check, but if someone is still causing discord they have to go, even if they’re a star producer.
Finally, a word of caution before you sit down for the one-on-one discussion with your troublesome employee: make sure you understand the difference between a difficult employee and a toxic one. It’s possible the employee simply doesn’t realize how he or she comes off to others. The fussbudget who finds an issue with everything, the star salesperson who doesn't help with menial or administrative tasks, or the eager beaver who dives into every discussion, are irritating but not necessarily toxic. Harvard Business Review identifies a toxic employee as one who spreads their [bad] behavior to others: a pattern of de-energizing, frustrating or putting down teammates.