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You used to be one of the company’s most revered managers, but now it seems that you’ve lost the admiration and respect of your team. While it’s doubtful that any of your employees are brazen enough to come out and say, “I don’t respect you,” they show it by their actions. They’re not as excited as they used to be. They don’t go the extra mile anymore – in fact; some aren’t even going the required mile. The number of employees who think they are the boss may begin to grow. The sense of camaraderie you used to have with your team is gone, possibly even leaving you figuring out how to manage someone who doesn’t want to be managed.

So what happened? And how can we learn how to deal with disrespectful employees and gain their respect again? When an employee is not respecting their manager, it’s time to take a look in the mirror!

respect two way street

How to Deal With an Employee Who Doesn’t Respect You

Employee Workforce Respect Is a Two-Way Street

If your employees don’t feel that you respect them, they’re not likely to reciprocate and extend respect. Do you no longer ask for their opinions or consult them before you make decisions? If your team thinks that you no longer value their input or care how your decisions affect them, it will be hard – if not impossible – for them to think that you have their best interests at heart. And once they cease to view you as a caring manager, they will stop respecting you. An employee not respecting their manager is likely to be less productive and engaged. If this situation continues, you may soon find yourself wondering how to deal with employees with bad attitudes or deal with employees who don’t follow instructions.

Don’t Say Anything You Don’t Want to be Repeated.

As a manager, you may have established close relationships with other managers, and, naturally, you may share experiences and challenges with them. However, never badmouth your team to other managers – or anyone. This is a bad idea for several reasons. You never know if your words may be repeated, and your team may find out what you said. And, as many studies have shown, people have a knack for embellishing stories when they repeat it.

For example, you may have said, “Sometimes, I wish I had one or two younger people on my team to contribute fresh, new ideas.” Still, by the time the statement gets back to your employees, you’re quoted as saying, “I’m stuck with a bunch of old, slow people who need to retire because they’re dragging the company down.” And although this is quite a stretch from what you actually said, imagine trying to explain the difference to your team! While your actual comment may be the lesser of two evils, it still makes you sound like you’re unhappy with the team that you have. And even worse, your team may wonder what other kinds of derogatory comments you’ve been making about them.

lead by example

If this situation gets out of hand, it can quickly create a toxic work environment. Even if it doesn’t create insolent or rebellious employees, it will almost certainly result in employees not respecting their manager

Always Pull Your Own Weight – and Avoid Even the Appearance That You’re Not

If your employees are working hard, then you should also be. And if their workloads increase, you certainly should not be seen routinely twiddling your thumbs, taking extended lunch breaks, standing around joking with other managers, surfing the internet, or doing anything else that could leave the impression that you have lots of free time on your hands. And once they have that idea, it’s a concise path to an employee not respecting their manager.

These actions create the impression – true or not – that you don’t care how hard your employers are working because the company is paying them to provide a service, so they’re just doing their jobs. And while that’s true, the manager should lead by example. If you truly don’t have anything else to do, sit quietly at your desk and try to figure out ways that your team can work more efficiently or make an effort to communicate with team members to make sure they have the support and resources they need.

Give Your Employees Credit – and Lavishly Praise Them in Public

When someone on your team has a good idea, whether you’re presenting the idea to fellow managers, your team, or the entire company – or whether the idea is in the implementation stage – you need to make it crystal clear that this great idea came from Sally, Bob, or whoever came up with the idea or suggestion. Taking credit for someone else’s idea is stealing, and you’ll quickly lose the respect of your employees

Some managers may not understand that “stealing” an idea doesn’t always take the form of blatantly stating, “Hey, I came up with this idea.” It can be as simple as having a conversation with your boss and saying, “Suppose we do A, B, and C?” as opposed to saying, “Sally thinks that if we do A, B, and C.” By omitting Sally’s name when presenting the idea, it leaves the impression that this was your brainchild, and what's known as a lie of omission.

And not only will stealing your team’s ideas create a lack of respect, but it will also produce another undesirable effect: they will stop telling you their ideas. They may be brimming with concepts, theories, and suggestions that could take the company to the next level, but they won’t open their mouths because they don’t respect you enough to share their thoughts with you.

Respect must be earned, and it must be maintained. When it’s lost, it will take time and a conscious effort on your part to rebuild it. Acknowledge your errors and sincerely commit to being the type of manager worthy of respect, and you can slowly turn the tables back in your favor. While learning how to deal with an employee who doesn’t respect you can be challenging, it is necessary to foster a productive working environment.

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Has your workplace become contaminated with negative energy, negative people, and negative behavior?

If so, you’ve got a big problem on your hands that needs attention.

A negativity culture will affect work relationships, employees’ attitudes toward leadership, coworkers, customers, and ultimately productivity. A negative culture also leads to higher involuntary turnover levels from your best performers, even as your lowest performers—who aren’t hindered by ambition and the need to impact the organization positively—hunker down for the long haul.

But perhaps worst of all, a negative culture will drive out your healthiest performers, who are all too happy to leave behind a workplace characterized by backstabbing, distrust, and fear.

Like I said—problem.

On the other hand, maybe your workplace isn’t characterized by negativity, and you’d like to keep it that way.

Regardless, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out how.

What Causes a Culture of Negativity? 

Negativity contamination doesn’t occur by happenstance. Instead, a toxic brew of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, apathy, cowardice, helplessness, and fear creates a messy problem.

Positive reinforcement. Employees who exhibit bad behaviors are consistently rewarded with promotions, public kudos, and plum assignments.

Negative reinforcement. Employees who complain about bad behavior are shunned, labeled as “troublemakers,” ignored, demoted, or driven out of the organization.

Apathy. Those in authority fail to give a hoot, instead preferring to remain “neutral.” (As though that were possible.)

Cowardice. Those in authority fail to act for fear of the potential negative personal consequences.

Helplessness. Those troubled by the bad behavior and with the heart to intervene have no authority to challenge it.

Fear. Those troubled by the bad behavior remain silent for fear of losing favor or even their livelihood.

Nipping Negativity in the Bud

The best way to nip negativity in the bud is to manage your company culture mindfully.

Mindful management is an active process and requires forethought, commitment, and determination. Mindful management is strategic.

If you don’t want negativity taking over your workplace, negative behavior must be addressed at every opportunity.

Reward good behavior consistent with the stated values of your organization. Ding bad behavior inconsistent with your stated values. Encourage honesty and openness by welcoming tough questions and criticisms from all levels of staff. Hold bullies accountable.

Don’t hesitate to make changes when changes are needed. For example, if someone is a good technician but a lousy manager, remove her people's responsibilities. Whenever necessary, don’t be afraid to send the incorrigibles packing.

Finally, don’t entertain gossip. I’ve encountered many a leader who dealt in gossip and favored company snitches who regularly gifted the leader with pinches of dirt here and there. Such leaders may believe these transactions keep them in the know, but most of this “knowledge” is of little value, especially considering its true cost. Further, healthy organizations don’t encourage gossip and favoritism. Healthy organizations encourage information exchange through honest dialogue.

Banishing Negativity for Good

If your company is gripped in the jowls of negativity and is looking for a release, senior leadership must first look in the mirror.

To repeat, negative cultures don’t occur by accident. For real change, senior leadership has to get in front of the problem while clarifying what the company stands for and how those beliefs will be enforced in the future.

Of course, talk is merely talk until the standard is challenged. At that point, leadership has the chance to gain trust and credibility by doing the hard but right thing … or not.

Register for Omnia’s FREE upcoming webinar, How to Keep Negativity from Infecting Your Workplace, TODAY to learn more!

We’ve all heard about the toxic employee. They have notoriously bad attitudes that affect and infect the team, bringing down the mood and productivity of just about everyone around them.

These proverbial “bad apples” can reside in the ranks of management, but either way causes trouble for your staff and your customers—and that means trouble for you.

You’ve tried ignoring the problem, you’ve dropped “hints” to the offending employee, and you even had that one oh-so-awkward conversation that left you with the distinct impression your “problem child’s” ears sure weren’t made for listening.

All that and the complaints are louder than ever. Now what?

Remember It’s Okay to Be the Boss

I once had a manager tell me she didn’t “like to get all bossy” with staff. Fair enough, I said, but you ARE the boss. Being the boss means you have responsibility. Being the boss means you have authority. Being the boss means you’re within your rights to set and enforce standards and expectations without being made to feel you’re doing something unseemly.

If your toxic employee hasn’t responded to your gentle suggestions for improvement, perhaps the first attitude that needs adjusting is yours.

Take a Step Back

Before you confront your employee again (and yes, this is going to be necessary), make sure you understand what’s really going on. If you’ve spoken with the employee more than once about his behavior, but nothing’s changed, you likely have a fighter on your hands. Fighters are in a constant battle for control of most everything and everyone around them.

There’s nothing wrong with a little spirit. If your request were inappropriate (that your employee engages in immoral or illegal activities, for instance), you’d deserve to see a little of that spirit, to my way of thinking.

However, that’s not the case. What’s inappropriate here is your employee’s combative attitude. Recognize it and plan accordingly.

Take Control

If you’re dealing with a fighter, you will do well to acknowledge that fighters are nearly obsessive about winning and will engage in obfuscation, manipulation, and even outright lying to stay on top.

Your goal then is threefold:

Do not get off track, do not let your employee frame the conversation, do not get sucked into any diversionary drama, and do not back down. Your expectations are reasonable, and your employee has no legitimate excuse for ignoring them.

If necessary, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself:

“I understand, but your behavior is disruptive and inappropriate and must stop.” 

“I see what you’re saying, but your behavior is disruptive and inappropriate and must stop.” 

“I’m sorry to hear that, but your behavior is disruptive and inappropriate and must stop.” 

Immediately end the conversation if your employee becomes irate or abusive. At that point, you can say something like:

“I can tell you’re upset, and I can understand why. However, I can’t allow you to address me disrespectfully. We can talk more when you’re better able to control yourself. Until then, please know that my initial position stands. Your behavior is disruptive and inappropriate, and must stop.” 

However, when it ends, the meeting ends, immediately document the highlights and send your employee an email message restating your expectations.

Follow Through

If your toxic employee continues as before, escalate the discipline until the employee gets the message or is let go. Don’t drag this process out, either.

Get Help

Do yourself and your organization a big favor and approach this employee only after consulting with Human Resources or whoever is responsible for employee relations in your organization. You don’t want the employee (remember you’re dealing with a fighter here) to take this opportunity to cause more trouble, legal or otherwise, for you or your company.

Don’t Take it Personally, But Do Take it Seriously.

The longer you manage, the more likely it is you’ll encounter the toxic employee.

Because toxic employees have been fighting for years, you shouldn’t take the bad behavior personally. However, you must take it seriously. Toxic employees do not have a positive effect on the people around them.  They ruin cultures and sometimes whole companies with their uncooperative, selfish, and conniving ways. Don’t let that happen on your watch.

Personality clashes, lackluster performance, insubordination, aggressive behavior – good reasons to fire an employee? Maybe…or maybe not!

If you spend most of your morning commutes dreaming up new ways to deal with a nightmare employee, then it’s time to stop dreaming and start taking action. Eliminating employee misconduct is a huge challenge for anyone who has ever uttered those immortal words, “You’re Hired,” and then quickly regretted it.

Innocent looking offices become strategic battlegrounds when an employee’s behavior goes unchecked. Working conditions can be manipulated to drive the troublesome employee to leave “voluntarily.” Employees might be moved to a different geographical area, given an unpopular shift, assigned menial tasks, or otherwise demoted. Sometimes, internal alliances are formed, and existing employees conspire against the unsatisfactory employee in a desperate, but malicious, attempt to banish him or her.

However, these actions typically bring about more harm than good and may, in fact, be illegal.

If a seemingly unfit employee is unproductive, making mistakes, or otherwise causing severe anxiety, there are legitimate ways to take action. Firing the employee should be your last resort, as doing so will likely drain you emotionally and financially. The price of a job posting is one of many expenses. You may find yourself short-staffed and struggling to keep up with demands and deadlines. An employee's replacement requires you to pore over resumes, conduct interviews, and sort through each candidate's positives and negatives. Hours that should be spent planning, developing business strategies, and attending to everyday business needs are lost.

Progressive discipline can improve a poor performer’s work habits and outlook. Your goal as a manager should be to turn around inappropriate behavior, ease tensions, and help your employee and yourself.

Consider these procedures before firing a staff member:

1. Schedule a private meeting to discuss your concerns. Offer resources, tools, or any aids that might get your employee on track. Ask open-ended questions that prompt a discussion. Listen intently for clues about what motivates your employee – and what doesn’t! If you know how to elicit a positive response from someone, you can learn how to push the right buttons to get it.

2. Issue a verbal warning. In many cases, this can resolve the problem. Although it might be difficult, refrain from making subjective, generalized statements like, “you have a bad attitude.”  Provide quantifiable data, dates, times, and specific instances of shortcomings. Disclose your expectations, and underscore the consequences if improvements are not seen by a specific and realistic date.

3. Document the details of each counseling session to protect yourself and minimize the risks of a wrongful discharge claim if termination becomes necessary.
If job performance continues to be problematic, issue a written warning reiterating expectations, objectives, and unacceptable behavior consequences. Place a copy in the employee’s file.

4. A short unpaid or paid suspension may need to follow if improvements are not evident, and the employee works in administration and/or draws a straight salary. This “time out” gives you a chance to step back, view the big picture, consider past actions, and contemplate future behavior.

5. If the situation is still unresolved, your only option may be termination. Be sure it is appropriate and in line with past disciplinary measures. Eliminate any possibility of your employee filing legal action against you. Obtain written approval from your own manager and make sure you have an airtight case.

Be prepared to deal with some fallout, which may include resentment from the terminated employee’s peer allies or accusations that you broke up a great team. You might also hear plenty of grumbling from remaining staff members who must work harder or longer until the employee is replaced. You will undoubtedly need very thick skin, at least until the dust settles.

Of course, you can avoid employee terminations' stress and expense simply by making better hiring decisions. The mistake of taking on new employees without a firm grasp of their goals, strategies, work habits, and overall personality can be costly. Conversely, make sure your applicants understand your needs and expectations. Guessing is a game that should not be played by either prospective employers or prospective employees.

Give new hires a copy of your handbook. If you do not have one, provide some written rules, so your new hire understands what is and is not acceptable. Be direct, clear, and specific. Supply a written job description making your requirements definitive. Leave no room for missed goals, bent rules, skipped steps, or less than stellar behavior.

Business professionals are always fine-tuning their hiring practices. Interviews, resumes, and personal recommendations are helpful. Still, problems like incompatibility with a workplace or conflicting business strategies may initially go unnoticed, then lead to intolerable frustration and stress on the job.

Many managers turn to behavioral assessments to help determine job and workplace compatibility. These reports can red flag a candidate’s possible incompatibility with a job, a manager, and a specific workplace while pointing out ways to maximize that person’s potential. Managers also have the opportunity to learn more about their own work habits and use that to adjust to their team's needs.

The aftershocks that come from terminating an employee are far-reaching and can trigger anything from pangs of remorse to expensive lawsuits. Protect yourself and your organization by doing all you can to find employees who will enhance your team, not bring it down. Sometimes the best solution to a big problem is to avoid having it in the first place!

Firing an employee is never easy, even if the employee is an unlikeable person.  Factor in today’s economy and an employee with a family relying on his/her single income and even Donald Trump may lose sleep over it.  And, if there is ever a time when you want to be extra sure of crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, this is the time.  Aside from avoiding lawsuits, your name (and that of your company) can be dragged through the mud in mere seconds with social media.

One of the most important things a good employer can do is set clear expectations for employees.  The more specific the policies and the more consistent the management style, the fewer problems, and the fewer terminations.  For example, if you have casual Fridays or a theme styled dress-up day, be very clear on the parameters.  If you have a pajama day, spell out what qualifies as pajamas, or your office could end up looking like a house in California’s San Fernando Valley prepping for an adult movie shoot.  Clarity is essential in today’s workplace.

Let’s say you have an employee who shows up late regularly, wears unprofessional clothing, skips meetings, spends a good part of her day on Facebook, snaps her gum loudly enough that there have been complaints from other employees, doesn’t make her quarterly sales, and calls in sick after all major party holidays (July 4th, Cinco de Mayo), can you fire her?  That depends.  She makes Homer Simpson look like a model employee, but is she actually breaking any rules?  Have you kept a file on her?  Have you discussed what she needs to improve on, and have you followed up?  Did you have her sign paperwork regarding meetings and discussions on her work performance and office behavior?

An employer's most important thing is to have an employee handbook that clearly states what is expected of employees.  Furthermore, all employees should be given a copy and required to sign off that they have read it.  This book becomes the bible of the office.  It will clearly define and outline expectations.  For example, it will include policies and procedures for calling in sick.  A doctor’s note may be required for more than two days of missed work.  Appropriate office behavior needs to be clearly defined.  All states have different mandates in regards to employee rights.  In Massachusetts, employees can claim conflict with religious beliefs to keep from having to groom their hair.  In California, workers are entitled to ten-minute breaks for every four hours worked.  You must know your state’s laws in regards to employment.

To keep your ducks in a row, establish clear procedures for terminating an employee. 

Here are some guidelines:

Voluntary resignation. There is always the option of inquiring about whether an employee would like to leave on their own terms.  However, they may not be eligible to collect unemployment if they quit voluntarily.  If they wish to quit rather than be terminated, be sure they put it in writing and that all paperwork is filed properly.  When it is time to terminate, it must be done swiftly to avoid problems, so this may not always be a plausible first option.

Don’t step on toes.  If you work under someone, be sure they are aware of your decision and be sure you have the authority to carry out the termination.

Notify Human Resources.  Before you begin termination proceedings, notify the HR department.

Never fire an employee in anger. Always be sure proper procedure has been followed and never fire an employee in the heat of the moment.  To avoid lawsuits, you must have documentation and show the employee was given an opportunity to improve their performance.

Follow policy!  Follow your company’s written employment policies.  If you own the company, draft clear, concise policies for terminating employees and follow succinctly.

Document, document, document.  There should be a paper trail of all infractions and disciplinary actions.  If there is no evidence of wrongdoing, it leaves room for conclusions of improper motives for termination, which leads to lawsuits.

Honesty is always the best policy.  This is not the time to sugar coat things.  Be direct and forthright.  Most employees are going to be upset upon termination, regardless of the reason.  So, don’t risk your own credibility in an attempt to spare hurt feelings with false explanations, such as the company can’t afford to pay him/her.  Be clear that their performance is unsatisfactory and refer to the paper trail you created and have clearly documented.

Use examples, not general statements.  Do NOT tell someone they are lazy.  Tell them they did not complete tasks in a timely manner.  Do not state that they are unreliable.  State that they did not file three separate reports on time.

Have a witness.  Always have a third party present.  Always.  Have this person take notes.

Termination Letter.  Again, document everything.  If the employee refuses to sign it, note that in the letter.

Keys, Company Property, Exit Strategy.  Be sure all keys and company property is immediately returned.  In some cases, including a security guard in the termination meeting and having them escort the ex-employee out of the building (after keys and company items have been returned) may be necessary.  Although being respectful and courteous is of utmost concern, other employees' safety and company property is of higher concern.

Immediately Terminate Computer Access.  Be sure passwords are immediately changed, and all access to company computers and technology is terminated promptly.

Lead by good example and be an effective manager with fair and consistent policies, and hopefully, you will rarely, if ever, need to employ these termination steps.

Whether it’s a Debbie Downer, Nasty Nellie, Mean Merle, or Unpleasant…Ulysses? -negative attitudes (and the employees they belong to) can be toxic to the workplace.

Everyone has worked with someone they didn’t like --that’s totally normal and to be expected. There are some people, though, that gets under everyone's skin and make the workday unbearable.

But come on… is one person really that big a deal?

Well, depending on the situation, it can be a huge deal. A negative personality can derail productivity in an interactive environment, damage a team, and cause extra problems for HR and management. A 2011 paper published in Health Psychology even suggested that unsupportive coworkers can increase employee mortality.  Yup… working with jerks can kill you.


The amount of trouble one person can cause really depends on that person’s contact with others. If you hired a jerk who enters data all day but doesn't talk to anyone, it’s probably not going to matter much. However, a jerk in a position of authority or in a job that involves a lot of collaboration is bad news.

Some people are just bullies. They are loud and mean and rude; they tend to be easy to identify and avoid. Others are more subtle; they do their damage through back-stabbing, slop-stirring, and idea stealing.

One of the most destructive coworkers I have ever had (years ago) did irreparable damage to our close-knit department by finding and photocopying a list of everyone’s salaries then showing it to the people at the bottom of the scale. If you just chatted with her, you wouldn't know what she was capable of. She seemed nice enough, but it became apparent how much she enjoyed causing quiet but genuine drama over time. Her toxicity might not have been so obvious during the selection process.

Here are a couple of red flag reminders of what to look out for when you don't end up with a jerk!

Before the Interview: A lack of courtesy and professionalism during the phone screen and interactions with your receptionist and office staff. (nip that one in the bud!)

During the Interview:

1. An overall tone of negativity: If the candidate can’t find one good thing to say about any prior employers, duties, or colleagues, you can bet they won’t be able to find anything positive about your work environment… which means they won’t be bringing anything positive to your company.
2. Inappropriate comments or responses: If something strikes you as odd, too aggressive, or just…icky, trust your instincts. Think of it this way: this person is supposed to be bringing his best game to the interview. If the best he has is creeping you out, don’t ignore it.
3. Exaggerated traits, even if they are the ones you want: It’s important not to mistake bad behavior for something positive.  Yeah, you want a bold, competitive salesperson, but you don’t want a pushy thug who will intimidate people and make a bad name for your company.

Other things you can do to avoid hiring a bad egg:

Check references—every time. If the person knows how to behave in an interview, reference checks may be the only way to detect a problem.  Be prepared to read between the lines.  Sometimes people don’t want to talk smack about ex-employees, either because they are too nice or because they don’t want any trouble. A great candidate’s references will generally have tons of nice things to say. A bad candidate’s references may be very noncommittal and keep the conversation short. Don’t be afraid to ask for specifics; the worst they can do is clam up.

effectively hire your next wave of talent

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