Can you fire an employee for having a 'bad attitude'?

Can you fire an employee for having a 'bad attitude'?

Can you fire an employee for having a As we enter the new year, workplaces should be aflush with morale boosting initiatives and smiling faces.

Having said that, sometimes it can be difficult to get back into the swing of our usual routines, leading some employees to be grumpy, dissatisfied and pessimistic.

But when does a bad attitude turn into a more serious disciplinary problem? Can you legally fire a worker for bringing the mood down?

Thomas Stefanik, Partner at Torkin Manes, explained to HRD Canada how HR leaders should be approaching a staff member with a chip on their shoulder.

“A ‘bad attitude’ can encompass a number of traits in a workplace,” explained Stefanik. “Generally, it includes any or all of; an unfriendliness toward co-workers, a refusal to assist or co-operate with co-workers without any particular reason, giving short or perfunctory answers to supervisors, always demonstrating negative outlooks on the employer’s business or projects, and complaining to co-workers about one’s treatment by the employer.”

Stefanik advises that HR leaders deal with the negative employee face-to-face, and sooner rather than later. “The employee needs to understand, if they don’t already, that their perception among their peers is poor because of their attitude,” he added, “and likely it is affecting the perception of the employee’s performance.”

Stefanik advocates taking a look at the wider picture, and asking the worker if something has occurred in their personal lives which has impacted their outlook. “If the employee at one time had a positive attitude, quite likely something has happened in the workplace or in their life that is causing this.”

However, you must be careful not to pry too much into an employee’s affairs. Acting as a concerned colleague is fine, but don’t demand to know what’s happening outside of the workplace – as Stefanik explained it may seem as if you’re violating their privacy.

“On the other hand,” he added, “it may become apparent that the employee is dealing with a disability, perhaps a mental health issue, and of course if the employer becomes aware of that, there is an obligation to attempt to accommodate the disability.”

As an employer, before moving forward with any terminations, you have to be in full possession of all the facts, as well as being aware of the possible ramifications if you’re brought before an employment tribunal.

Stefanik told us there are a number of cases that have been brought before the Human Rights Tribunal, whereby the fired employee had alleged discrimination based on a pre-existing disability.

In those cases, everything depends on “their particular facts,” added Stefanik, “and whether the employee in fact had a disability, whether the employer was or should have been aware of it and whether in such cases it was possible to accommodate the employee’s issues”.

Firing a negative employee is one thing – but how would you react to firing a friend or family member? Read more here.