We’ve all encountered the type: employees who are smart—and know it. They work hard and produce results. But they are so arrogant, so abrasive and so insistent that their way is the right way that they kill morale.
You don’t have to keep them on just because they meet or even exceed business goals. You can and should explain that there are other criteria for success, such as following the rules and treating everyone with respect. If prima donnas refuse to work within those softer job criteria, don’t hesitate to fire them.
Recent case: ING fired Peter Hess from his job as a financial advisor when he was 65 years old. He had held the job for over a decade, and regularly met or exceeded his sales and production goals. However, he had trouble getting along with others, displayed a condescending attitude toward co-workers and regularly ignored company rules, such as entering his appointments in the master calendar. He also took sales trips outside his territory without permission.
Every supervisor he had during his tenure complained about the same things. Finally, after issuing several written warnings and counseling Hess on expected attitudes and working within the rules, the company fired him.
He fired back with an age discrimination lawsuit, hanging his case on two things—an offhand comment by his supervisor about teaching old dogs new tricks and the fact that he was one of the company’s star earners.
The court threw out his case. It reasoned that the comment was isolated and could be interpreted several ways. It also said that being a high producer wasn’t enough to defeat an employer’s claim that it fired the employee for legitimate . (Hess v. ING USA, No. 06-1844, ED NY, 2008)
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