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Jon, the star salesman at a large quipment distributor, had been promoted to sales manager. Brash,
confdent and aggressive, he produced
impressive results. However, his colleagues complained about his bullying
and other ofensive behavior. For example, he’d often make comments about
women’s bodies and tell explicit stories
and jokes. Or he would unfavorably compare women’s abilities to men’s or make
comments that women were better
suited to the home than the workplace.
In response to frequent employee
complaints, Shanice, the HR director,
sent Jon to anti-harassment classes and
coaching sessions, which led to only temporary improvement.
Shanice met with the company’s
CEO and VP of sales. She made a well-reasoned case that enough was enough.
The spots were not changing on this
leopard, and it was time to let him go.
The VP of sales immediately pushed
back: “But he’s our best salesperson! If
we lose him, we’re going to be in big trou-
ble making our numbers!”
Shanice replied, “I don’t think you’re
taking into account the negative impact
he has on the department. There’s tre-
mendous upside when employees work
in a positive, professional environment.”
Further discussion ensued. The CEO
ultimately accepted Shanice’s reasoning,
and Jon’s employment was terminated.
Sure enough, to the sales VP’s happy
surprise, Shanice’s prediction turned out
to be true. Ousting Jon produced a surge
in morale, engagement, retention and
productivity that more than ofset the
loss of his sales. In the year following his
discharge, total sales actually increased.
Lesson Learned: When misbehaving employees excel at their core job
function, leaders are often reluctant to
part ways with them. However, when
employment is terminated, leaders
typically discover that the hidden cost
of putting up with bad behavior was substantial. Hostile work environments can
not only violate the law, they minimize
human potential. Bullying-free, harassment-free and respect-based environments do the opposite.
Jathan Janove, a former employment
attorney in Portland, Ore., is the author
of Hard- Won Wisdom: True Stories from
the Management Trenches (Amacom,
2017). He was named one of the Top 100
Leadership Speakers for 2018 by Inc.
This article relates to HR Expertise, one of
the nine competencies on which SHRM has
based its certification. To learn more, visit