Bad Attitudes: Don’t Let Them Spoil Your Team


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You’ve likely heard the saying, “One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.” Well, the same is true for one negative employee with a bad attitude; they can wreak havoc in your company. But, fear not, there are ways to handle negative employees, some that can turn a bad situation into a positive one, which is win-win if your negative employee is also your star employee.

Step 1: Is The Issue Bad Behavior Or A Bad Attitude?

Yes, there is a difference between someone’s attitude and their behavior. Not everyone sees people’s attitudes that same way, and what you may deem as bad, may be perfectly acceptable to the next person. So, the key here is to determine if the employee’s attitude is leading to bad behavior.

For example: If an employee acts aggravated or defiant when assigned a new task, but still takes it on and does a great job; that is just a negative attitude. However, if they act that way and then refuse to do the task, that is a bad behavior.

Remember, everyone has bad days, or even bad weeks. While you shouldn’t let the negativity persist for too long, if the change pops up suddenly, give it a day or two to see if it goes away on its own.

Step 2: Document & Coach The Employee

Now that you have determined whether you’re dealing with a behavior or an attitude, you have two courses of action.

If it is an attitude problem, take the employee aside and have a conversation with them and find out the cause of the attitude problem. Whether the negative attitude has been persistent or something that has just started occurring, try to get a full understanding from the employee’s point of view. Did something happen at work that changed the way they feel? Is it a personal issue? Is their grievance valid?

If something happened at work, and it’s a valid complaint, work with them to correct the situation. If the issue is not a valid complaint, explain to them the reason behind the change and try to reach an understanding with them. The effort you put towards correcting the situation will help change the employee’s attitude and hopefully things will get back on track.

If it’s a behavior problem, again, take the employee aside and have a conversation with them and try to find out the cause of the behavior issues. Explain clearly what you see as the issues with their behavior and what needs to be done to correct them. Develop a plan and set benchmarks for improvement and meet again with the employee to discuss improvements or failure to improve. Also, make sure that you clearly lay out the next steps that will be taken if no improvement occurs.

Regardless of whether it’s an attitude or behavior problem, document the meeting(s), have the employee sign the document, and keep a copy in their employee fi le. If you need to bring in other managers or your human

resources manager for future meetings, do this, and again document the meeting(s).

Make sure that whatever actions you take in this step are fair, consistent, and are moving the situation in a positive direction for both the employee and the company.

Step 3: Control Negativity Before It Spreads

Besides dealing with employees individually, you should have tactics prepared for handling your workforce as a whole, in order to prevent negativity from tainting all your employees.

Communicate. Make sure employees know that you have an open-door policy, and that you are willing to share what you know about events and news in, around, and about the company. This will also help feed information into the office grapevine, which can help invalidate rumors and false information.

Participate. The more you listen to employees, and take an active interest in their concerns, the less likely they will be to complain to each other.

Set Standards. Base them on behavior, not attitude. You can’t control an individual’s thought processes. However, you can control negativity by putting consequences on behavior. For example, you may not be able  to change the fact that an employee doesn’t like a particular company policy, but you can emphasize what disciplinary measures may be given out if the policy is not followed.

Step 4: Take Decisive Action

Unfortunately, not all employees will change their attitude, no matter how much you work with them and how many chance you give them. If an employee does not make improvements, then you have to make the decision of whether it’s worth keeping them on the team or letting them go.

If you decide to let the employee go, make sure that you have followed any disciplinary procedures you have in your employee handbook and have documented every step of the process. And to ensure that you are staying on the right side of the law in your state, you may want to seek legal counsel before making any final decisions.

At the end of the day, it is important for your entire team’s success to not have negative employees with bad attitudes disrupting your company. If you take the time to find the root of the problem and fi x it, everyone will win.


Posted In: ACCA Now, Management

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