Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of our bad employees or where the heck they came from? Bad employee attitudes spring from many places. Sometimes the root cause of bad attitudes, poor performance, or unacceptable behavior is just ego, sometimes it is an unhappy or turbulent home life, sometimes drugs or alcohol, or even some kind of chemical imbalance like too much testosterone or estrogen. And, okay, in other cases (let's face it) you may simply be working with sociopaths or psychopaths. However, if I have learned anything in my career, it's that my diagnosis has been wrong way too many times.
In addition to owning my fallible judgements and inadequately informed diagnosis, considering how pressure from working with me might be spawning bad employee attitudes would have been a smart move. Acknowledging my own culpability for a bad employee attitude was hard for me to even think about, but once I saw the problem from another angle besides my own, I realized that my own behaviors had seriously complicated some workplace relationships and definitely brought the worst out of many "bad employees!"
Take lying for instance. None of us want to work with a bad employee who lies. A lack of loyalty is one thing. Lying makes tolerating bad employee attitudes exponentially more difficult. But, if we are going to be judicious, we must get real.
When people work in a harsh environment where fear of retaliation, punishment, yelling, rejection, or losing something valuable (like bonuses or status) exists, or if there is an authority figure who has radical mood swings (pssssst, is this you?), there is a pretty good chance that the art of lying is being honed and perfected. The liars are not trying to be bad employees. Bad employees are sometimes just trying to survive! I'm not saying lying is a good response, but it is a common one. We should be reminded how easy it is to condemn others for lying when we all have had firsthand experience with the difficultly of being truthful when under the pressure of some type of threat.
When bad employee attitudes complicate our lives, starting by giving the benefit of doubt before we roll our eyes or launch into discipline is just good leadership. I learned this too late in life, after I had already crucified scores of "bad employees" on the cross of my own misunderstanding.