Attitude is not a valid basis for termination of employment
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Attitude is not a valid basis for termination of employment

Measurable Behavior is a valid basis for termination of employment

If you go to HR, or you go to your legal team and you tell them that an employee has an attitude problem, HR is going to say, “Well, what do you mean by that? Describe it.”

“Attitude” doesn’t exist
The word attitude is a problem. It’s a legal problem. The attorneys will tell you that it’s not something that can be defined. It’s that the opposing legal counsel will automatically throw into something on the list. Attitude doesn’t mean anything. It’s not measurable, and thus shouldn’t be a basis for termination of employment. That’s just a code for age, sex, race, religion, national origin, and disability — the list.

So, you’ve got to get out the attitude. You can’t use attitude as grounds for termination of employment. You have to wait until their performance or attitude affects their performance. So, where do you go with this? Get the word attitude out of your vocabulary and go with behavior. Document the behavior and set a behavior policy. Behavior should be 50% of anybody’s job. It should be in every job description. It’s even been seen in a union contract. People that can’t behave up to minimum standards are not in anybody’s best interest. A lot of companies are okay communicating performance standards. But they’re lousy communicating behavior standards and relating behavior standards to termination of employment.

So, here it is. Maintain positive work atmosphere by acting and communicating in a manner so that you get along with customers, clients, co-workers and most importantly, you. Because you are the boss.

Some will try to say that’s not fair. They’re right; it’s not meant to be fair. Work isn’t fair. The closest we come to fair at work is, consistent. What you owe to the employee is the communication of standard. Again, okay on performance, lousy on behavior. This gives me enough room because there are going to be differences. There’s going to be differences in a warehouse and the behavior that’s acceptable from a bank or my receptionist versus my sales force.

The termination of employment is because of behavior
For the most part, termination of employment isn’t about performance. Employees get fired for their behavior. It’s the behavior that’s driving us crazy. And eventually that behavior is going to cost you your best workers if it’s not taken care of.
You know, great teams tend to outperform great individual players. If you look at sports teams all the time, great teams tend to outperform great individual players. And that’s why the behavior is so critical for dealing with termination of employment.

This is not just blue collar, white collar. This is across the board. Set a behavior standard in your operation. And even if you can’t – if you’re a big operation, you’re not going to be able to change the handbook. But in your unit, this is the approach. As you do evaluations or performance appraisals. This is the approach. Here are the behavior expectations for this job, and failure to live up to those standards will result in termination of employment.

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: “Yes, You Can Fire Without Fear! What Every Supervisor Needs to Know” by Hunter Lott, Esq. on August 22, 2007

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