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Handling Employees with a Bad Attitude or Bad Temper
Questions from our Readers
By Michael C. Dennis MBA,CBF

Question. One of my collectors has a bad attitude and a bad temper. I have received several complaints from customers about him being rude to them during collection calls. Can I fire him for his bad attitude?

Answer. If you are an at-will employer and this collector is an at-will employee, then you can fire him at any time with or without notice, and with or without cause. However, most experts on labor practices would agree that this is not a good idea. Why? Because it leaves the employer open to claims that the real reason for the termination was discriminatory or retaliatory.

In this situation, the supervisor should not focus on the employee's attitude problem. Instead, the supervisor should concentrate on the consequences of that bad attitude. Here is an example of a conversation a supervisor might have with an employee with an attitude problem:

"Your inability to get along with your co-workers is a serious problem. It has resulted in five complaints about you in the last year, and requests by three of your co-workers to either be transferred out of the department, or at the very least to be transferred as far away from your desk as possible. In addition, and of equal or greater concern, three customers in the last month alone have called me to complain that you were unprofessional, even hostile when you called them to ask about the status of payment."

Since the ability to work well with customers and co-workers is a basic skill that every collector is expected to have, the employee could be disciplined or even terminated for his poor interpersonal skills. However, most companies want to give employees [such as this one] an opportunity to make the changes necessary to keep their job. This is the basis of a policy of progressive discipline.

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