“You have to ride along with Ricky.  Ricky is a bad apple.  He has an attitude problem that is infecting the whole team.”

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to hop in the truck. Sure enough, Ricky started in on the company, the dispatcher, the uniform company and the weather.  “It’s been 118 degrees every day for six months.”

He even shared his thoughts about me riding along.  “What is this? Kindergarten? I guess I need a monitor?”

I asked him about his family.  If he had any kids.  What kind of sports they were into.  It turns out Ricky coaches Soccer for a YMCA league.

Then, we showed up at Mrs. Fernwickey’s home. I don’t know where Grumpy Ricky went, but Polite Ricky greeted her at the door.  He was kind and helpful.  He asked great questions and listened to her concerns.  He took notes as they chatted and clarified their communications.  When he took apart the AC unit, he showed her how it worked and pointed out the wear and tear.  She offered him – and me – a Pepsi.  We left Mrs. Fernwickey smiling, and with a big check in Ricky’s hands.  Even his handwriting was legible.  It was a darn near perfect service call.

On the trip back, Ricky complained about Obama and Romney.

When I returned to the shop, the owner couldn’t wait to debrief our call. “See what I mean?  What can I do to turn him around?”

“Maybe you could just leave him be. Take his complaining like a duck. Let it roll off your back. He is really a good guy.”

If you work in a problem-solving industry, it can be stressful.  Sometimes a guy needs to let off a little steam.  How about taking it like a duck?  Or just ignore him.  Or encourage others to ignore him.  They don’t need to sit together at the lunch table.  Flat out abuse is unacceptable.  And I don’t tolerate much whining.  Ask him to make his comments outside of your earshot.  You could even ask him to make suggestions for problem-solving projects in a short email.  But I wouldn’t fire a guy for letting off some steam.   I would fire him for not following procedure.  Fire people for behaviors, not for attitude.  Some people are just…grumpy.  If the bad attitude results in a bad behavior, like yelling or gestures, or any kind of non-compliance, then those are write-up or instant-dismissal events.  Deal with them and him appropriately.

A little grumbling?  Take it like a duck.

Got a different opinion? Let’s hear it. Comment below!


I am a guest star on Huffington Post’s new LIVE Video Channel. Check it out!

The Topic:  Do you have to be a Jerk to be a Success?  The fellow on this panel would certainly NOT work for me.  This is jerk-i-ness that crosses the line.

CAUTION!  This clip contains swear words.

AND…sometimes team members act up because you haven’t created a worthwhile game to play.  People like to be engaged in an honorable game, once with purpose, boundaries and freedoms.  Otherwise they may create their own game, like, “How many things can I complain about?”  A simple, powerful business plan can help you shift to a more positive focus.  Ready to inspire?

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