Should I Keep The Star Employee With The Terrible Attitude?

You might have a star employee, but if he or she has a terrible attitude at work, is it worth keeping this person around? What are the pros and cons? Today, career experts J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten tackle the following situation...


Dear J.T. and Dale,

I was put in charge of a dramatic restructuring. Many will be let go. I will have one IT job to fill and there’s a woman here who’s been here eight years. She is a wealth of knowledge, BUT has a huge attitude issue.

My boss doesn't think I should consider her, but if she could change the attitude, her knowledge would be an asset. Should I have a talk with her?

- Danny

According to O’Donnell, you should have a conversation with this individual before anything else. This employee might not realize the affect her behavior has on the rest of the team. People may have just let it go on without speaking up, and she could be relatively clueless as to how she makes people feel. You have to go to her and say something like this: “Look, I’m going to be really honest with you and give you some critical feedback. This is what management is saying about you. They don’t believe you can do this job. They don’t believe your attitude can change. Tell me how you think you can change your attitude and how we can work together to make this happen. Will you commit to that and are you ready to do this?” If she says yes, then you should give it a try. You’ve put it out there and you’ve set the expectations, and hopefully her terrible attitude will change. On the other hand, Dauten warns that all of the “ifs” in this situation can stack up. How do you know this employee will change? How do you know management will accept her? You don’t. There are a lot of moving parts to this situation, and her success isn’t guaranteed. “If you have the conversation and she knows layoffs are coming, and she’s worried about her job, she’s probably going to put on her ‘interview persona,’” said Dauten. According to Dauten, even though you’ve been working with this person, she’s going to stick on that "interview persona," you’re going to stick on your "interviewer persona." "You have these two artificial personalities exchanging myths about each other," said Dauten,"and what are you going to learn from that?" If you have to decide whether or not to let go of a star employee with a terrible attitude, consider the situation carefully. Do you think he or she could be changed? Think about the benefits of keeping him or her, as well as the potential. Then, consider the worst case scenario if he or she didn't keep up with your expectations. Want to ask J.T. & Dale a question? Email your question to advice@jtanddale.com.

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