It’s the ‘tude, dude

LeadershipIQ, a training company that specializes in management development, says 46 percent Bad_attitude-20659 of all new hires fail within their first 18 months of employment (insert link). The reason why? Poor attitude.

I can relate. I've had countless encounters over the years with poor  'tudes, including these gems:

– A Drew University intern who, when I asked where my research project was, shrugged her shoulders and sighed, “Sorry, dude. Guess I flaked.”- A recently-hired account executive who strolled into my office and told me he needed an immediate raise since he was “…working on two of the hottest B2B dotcoms in the country.”- A pre-Danderoo executive assistant who, when I asked her if she'd made my travel reservations, snarled, “I'll get to it, ok? I'll get to it.”

In an attempt to determine how my firm tries to prevent hiring employees with poor 'tudes, I turned to Debbie Salerno, our CFO (who also has responsibility for human resources) and Sara Jane Whitman Ramos, who leads our management development program and wields tremendous power at Peppercom.

Both agreed we have a much more stringent hiring process nowadays. Applicants will often meet with six or seven separate employees and we'll compare notes on everything from relevant experience to, yes, attitude.

Debbie and SJWR agree one of the best ways to uncover a poor 'tude is to get an applicant speaking about her previous work experiences. If she relates positive stories and is complimentary of the firm and its principals, we feel good about the applicant. But, if he starts trashing his previous employer and likens him to a combination of Charlie Sheen and Pee Wee Herman, we run away. We run away very, very fast.

SJWR related a recent tale of a woman who came in for an interview from a firm with a notoriously toxic culture. Her credentials were impressive to say the least and, says SJWR, she answered the initial interview questions quite well. But, then, we asked about her previous employer. One would think she'd just escaped from an insane asylum. There was lots of name calling and an increasingly hostile tone in the applicant's voice. We quickly ended the interview and thanked her for her time.

Once someone has been hired, dealing with a poor attitude becomes more problematic, say Salerno and Whitman Ramos. We'll conduct a 360 on each and every employee and, if poor attitude resonates as a concern, let the individual know future advancement and, indeed, employment depends on an attitude adjustment. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. We ended one relationship with an executive because he kept bashing clients to their faces. After being asked off a few accounts, we asked him off the good ship Peppercom.

Salerno says our attrition rate for new employees within the first 18 months is closer to 10 to 15 percent. And, she credits pre-hiring screening and post-employment interventions as the reasons why. SJWR adds that our mentorship and 'buddy' systems also help with attitude adjustments when needed.

All that said, I'm still trying to fix Ed's attitude after 18 years of working alongside the guy. Sometimes one has to overlook a poor 'tude when the dude in question does so many other things well.

4 thoughts on “It’s the ‘tude, dude

  1. Those were interesting days, Ghost. Sony, at that juncture in time, was white hot and seen as the Google or Facebook of consumer electronics. As a result, doing publicity for them was a true lose-lose proposition. If one secured a major placement, the response would be, ‘Of course you got the cover. We’re Sony.’ And, god forbid if Sony was left out of a major feature article, the response would be swift and severe. Such fun.

  2. Spot on, Sue. I’ve worked in, and for, toxic cultures. And, poor attitude can absolutely be a result of trickle down from the CEO. Thanks for pointing that out.

  3. Some folks do bring bad attitudes and they should take responsibility for that. That said, some bad attitudes are cultivated from the corporate cultures they are operating in. If you create a culture of inequity or hostility, you will breed that. Corporate karma – you will attract what you are… perhaps put good energy out there and it will come back to you.