Dave Deslauriers /

How to Handle Employees with Bad Attitudes

It’s perfectly normal for everyone to have the occasional bad day here and there. However, when an employee’s sour workplace attitude changes from a rare occurrence to the norm, it needs to be addressed. In this article, we’ll discuss several steps that managers can take to effectively handle employees with bad attitudes.

Don’t Ignore the Problem

You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. Whether their negative attitude is due to work-related issues, or something at home, it’s important that you don’t just ignore the problem. “It is okay if you do not enjoy confrontation,” says Ethan Chen of Crewapp.com. “But it is never a good idea to ignore challenging people and hope that their behavior will magically change. By sweeping issues under the carpet, team management becomes more trying as negative attitudes and bad behavior begin to cause widespread issues, such as worsening productivity and low morale among all employees. When deciding how to manage difficult staff, the first thing to consider is taking some form of action, whether that means speaking to those involved or opting to document the issues they are causing.”

De-Personalize the Conversation

If an employee feels like they’re being personally attacked, they’re likely to get defensive and shut down. This is counterproductive to what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s for that reason Erin Bramblett of Insperity.com suggests de-personalizing the conversation; Use “I” language instead of “you” language. Don’t open with a statement such as, “You are negative.” Instead give concrete examples, such as, “During yesterday’s meeting I noticed that you were not participating and even rolled your eyes while a co-worker was speaking.” Succinctly and factually state the offensive behaviors and the impact they are having on the team. Avoid generalities such as “not a team player,” and offer specific instances that were offensive.”

Be Specific About the Changes You Want to See

Once you’ve had a discussion with the employee and have gotten to the root of the issue, you’ll then need to clearly lay out your expectations moving forward and outline the consequences for not meeting them. Human capital management company, Ceridian.com offers, “It can be hard for an employee to change his or her behavior if they’re not clear on what needs to change. David Maxfield, Vice President of Research for the corporate training firm VitalSmarts and co-author of Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, noted in Fast Company, “[In our research we found that] 70% of employees who were aware that their boss was unhappy with their performance couldn’t tell you what they were doing wrong or how they were going to change it.”


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