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Sunday, 17 April 2016

How To Deal With Bad Attitude? There is Only One Answer!

"Oh no" I thought, "Surely not another" but it was.  I have written time and oft of that perennial problem of the high performers with a bad attitude and how it affects the people around them.

There have been three examples of that for me this week, which does indicate that not only is it perennial but it also, can seem to be intractable.

We had a speaker a very long time ago to my Vistage CEO Peer group who discoursed on this problem among other types in a business and he named the miscreant as a "terrorist".

This was in the days long before 9/11 and other similar outrages as well as President George W Bush's "war on terror".

The very word brings with it memories of recent atrocities and consequently I apologise for its use in the context of business that may be seen as hyperbole.

However the ramifications of such an individual in a business can cause real problems and difficulties for people in the team and indeed stories of colleagues being in tears are commonplace.

To expand on the matter we should consider one of those quadrant matrices so beloved of consultants. In this case the vertical axis is "Performance" and the horizontal is "Attitude/behaviour".

Ideally it would be desirable to have everyone in the top right square of great performance and exemplary attitude. Sadly however occupants are generally few and far between.

We are dealing with real people in a business and real people have bouts of angst in and among the good times.   This is generally not big deal as the moment can pass and often does quickly.

Nevertheless we do know what ideal looks like and it can be our goal to help people to achieve it.

If we consider now the bottom right square of indifferent performance but good attitude, these people often have the potential to move upwards. They are symptomatic of the need for attitude over skills that can be taught and they can learn and improve.

The bottom left square is occupied by those with poor performance and equally bad attitude so the question to ask is why are they still here?

The top left square is for the terrorists and often the major cause of upset in the team.  As a past denizen of sales operations in a range of businesses I know only too well how frequently we find terrorists in them.

People in sales are by definition loners and moreover are frequently physically detached from the HQ building and the day to day.

In addition they have total focus in achieving sales probably to a target and in their view nothing must get in the way. 

Add to that probable commission being generated from sales revenue and not the gross margin achieved and we have all the ingredients for a toxic mixture.

This is not to condone bad behaviour but rather to understand the motives behind it.

There is no quick fix to this problem other than surgery. The arguments against it are the possible loss of sales revenue from a top performer.  Oddly many leaders forget that most customers certainly in B2B deal with the supplier not the sales person.

Counterbalancing the potential loss of sales is frequently the potential loss of good people who can't take the flak any loner, plus a lowering of morale in the internal sales team.

Take your pick. It is highly unlikely that a quiet chat with the offender will do anything positive. Even if it does effect change the likelihood is a reversion to type after a while.

If you do gasp the proverbial nettle and do the surgery don't be surprised if you hear from the team "what took you so long?"

Always remember that we may hire people on their skills but we fire because of bad attitude and behaviour.

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