Is a Bad Attitude Grounds for Termination?


A bad attitude is not only grounds for termination, but it is one of the most common reasons for it, according to a July 2014 article by Steven Tulman, chief revenue officer at UNOapp & Digital MenuBox. The challenge for managers and business owners is terminating a bad apple without risking legal problems.

Why Terminate

  • Some managers or owners are reluctant to terminate employees who aren't team players and who are generally negative if they're high-producing employees. However, retaining someone who brings a dark cloud into the work environment affects the morale and performance of the entire office or work team, Tulman reports. In some cases, a worker may produce at an above-average level, but taking him out of the work setting leads to improvement in the overall performance of the work group. Constant tardiness, bad hygiene and refusal to follow policies are all symptoms of a bad attitude.

At-Will Requirements

  • In states that operate with at-will employment, companies don't have to offer a justification for termination, according to an October 2011 article on Human Resource Executive Online. However, companies do have to abide by laws that protect certain classes of people from discrimination. To avoid the costs of defending against a lawsuit and paying damages, company human resources departments normally advise managers to document the reasons for termination before making a move. The challenge with attitude is that it isn't a visible action. So companies often try to define problematic behaviors in their policies, such as insubordination or rude service.

The Documentation Process

  • Documenting efforts by a supervisor to improve the attitude and resulting behaviors of a worker is helpful in supporting termination. However, the role of attitude varies in different departments or jobs. Some people work in customer-facing jobs, while others work in behind-the-scenes roles, including information technology. In a typical work environment, the supervisor first addresses a bad attitude with one or more verbal warnings. Writing down training or coaching plans and sharing them with the worker also shows an effort by the supervisor to better the situation. If the attitude continues to show through rude behaviors or tardiness, written warnings and documentation begin. If employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, all encounters are normally documented, because union termination policies typically mandate specific steps.

More Urgent Offenses and Policy Development

  • A thorough policy manual that address unwanted behaviors and their potential consequences is helpful when termination is necessary. Clear anti-insubordination policies and an explanation of consequences are beneficial when dealing with lawsuits over termination for a bad attitude, reports Human Resource Executive Online. In some cases, companies must have more immediate processes when combating bad attitudes that involve sexual harassment or bullying. Investigating claims right away and firing immediately after one formal reprimand may protect against lawsuits filed by someone who's fired for such behavior.

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