Not too long ago I consulted for a company on a web project. It was contract work for a six month period. I had to work with the company’s marketing manager, we will call him Mr. M. Before I had even met Mr. M I was warned about him by several employees. They told me how mean he was and that I was the third developer to work with him this year. That should have been my first clue to break the contract and refund their money. But being young and the high dollar contract kept me there. To say the least when I finally met the Mr M, he was not a nice person.

At first I thought things were just rocky because we hadn’t found our groove. On the advice of a mentor I tried many different work styles but no matter what I tired, working with him became increasingly difficult. After several month of constant headbutting and the project at an essential stand still, I had to face reality. I scheduled a meeting with the owner. When I bought up the difficulties I was having with Mr. M the most he could say was “yeah, that’s just how he is…”. The owner was happy with the progress we had made though and told me to keep at it. He said that he knew the final product would be great because in the end Mr. M does fantastic work. So I continued on…

When my contract renewal date came, I assessed the past six month: In six month I spent almost every week working 60hr+ and we were only about 60% done. I had redesigned/rewritten almost every part of the project at least twice. I was way over time and budget. No matter what I did there was no pleasing Mr. M. At every step of the way he had a negative or belittling comment to say to me. The only work he was happy with was his own unless I had anything to do with it, then it was utter garbage. To say the least it was the worst six months of my work life. I have never met anyone so condescending and bitter in my life.

The meeting I had with the owner on whether or not they should renew my contract was bad. The owner wasn’t pleased with the progress. He was hoping the project would have been almost done by now. But he understood that it wasn’t all my fault. He knew how hard I had worked. But he had some questions. It had became clear how deep Mr. M’s poison had gone. Luckily I had records of everything and the damage was minimized.

I asked the owner what my purpose was here with this company. To which he replied “To help program and design (this project) so we can do (this) to help our clients.” Which was true, because of my skills, knowledge, and at the recommendation of another consultant I was accepted as part of their team to help their company and their clients. I was charged with a task to do. But here we are at the end of my contract without a completed task. A task that should have taken 6 months at 35-40 hours a week.

When I asked the owner if it was acceptable for the Mr M to waste company money, resources, in general make the work environment a negative place, and in my opinion do everything in his power to make this project fail, the owner wasn’t as quick to be ok with his behavior but excuses did come forth. “He just wants the best for this company…”, “He is just really particular about what he wants…”, “I know he is difficult to work with but the end results are always fantastic…” and so on…

All I heard from the owner was “I’m not in control of my company or my employees. I gave up control of my company to Mr. M so he can dictate our company image to suit his needs instead of using his talents to bring my vision of my business to life. I’ve hired a person with the inability to work well or at all with others to complete a common goal of making my business better. I’m allowing my company to be poisoned from the inside.”

In the end I told the owner that it wasn’t ok for Mr. M be a nasty mean person, not to me, not to anyone else in this company. I didn’t care how awesome his work was in the end, that didn’t give him license to be a jerk. I along with every other employee at this business is here to help build this business and fulfil your mission and vision of what this business should be.

I might have lost a client that day but I sent a clear message. It isn’t acceptable to be a jerk. Unfortunately this sort of thing happens way too often. We have all worked some place that has had a bad apple, that person you and everyone else just tries to avoid. It might be your boss, it might be a fellow co-worker, it might even be you, the owner. But why? Why is this acceptable. What does this accomplish? It certainly doesn’t help the business. In fact it does just the opposite. It can really hurt the business to the point where it will start to break down from the inside.

A healthy work environment will help a business prosper. If people enjoy going to work and get along with who they work with, they will work harder and produce better results. But it has to come from the top down. The owner has to be the role model. They have to create the culture that defines the business and promotes a healthy work environment. The next step is to find the right employees that are not only qualified but will also promote a healthy work environment.

I know it might be hard to give up the Mr. M’s in the world because in the end, they do such good work, so putting up with their nasty mean attitude is just part of the price. But its not. There are plenty of other capable bodied people out there that can do the same job or a better job and have a great attitude while doing it. Which will in urn help your business success.

So for this week. Take sometime to think about the negative people and elements in your business. What can be done? Is it time to replace that negative employee? Or do you just need to talk to them about why they are so unhappy and feel the need to take it out on the world? What ever it might be it is time to take a stand and say “we’re not going to take it.” Being a negative mean person is not acceptable!