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How to Deal With an Employee With an "Attitude"


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It doesn't take long for a manager to bump into an employee with an “attitude. " Evaluating an employee as having an “attitude" also depends on what bothers a manager, as the same behavior may be just fine with another manager. Yet, there are certain behaviors that indicate that the employee is exhibiting behaviors that affect the working environment. So how do you, the manager handle this behavior in the most effective way?

=>Challenging Behaviors

-The employee is constantly socializing

-He/She is rude or inconsiderate to others

-If you ask them to handle something additional to their normal responsibilities, they are resistant or upset.

-Complains about the company or the job

-Sloppy performance

-Rolls their eyes or sighs when you or another person is speaking in your group.

-Chronic lateness

-Annoyed with the customers

-Knows it all. . . is not open to input by you.

-Is defensive

=>Create Clarity around the Issue

First, ask yourself how the behavior affects the business. For example, even if the employee is performing, chronic complaining affects you, co-workers and potentially customers. What you need to do is list the behavior, when the employee engages in it, and how it affects the business.

When managing your employees, you have to provide specific information to the employee, otherwise, they don't understand their behavior and how it affects the business.

How comfortable are you with perceived confrontation. Some managers are not willing to address the issue because they fear the discussion will demotivate the employee, don't know how to approach the subject or the employee will leave and the manager is left with unfinished work.

If you are a manager that feels uncomfortable with speaking to your employees about their behavior, take the time to find a solution to this issue.

Note: If the behavior elicited by the employee is new, then you need to handle this differently. Usually new behavior indicates a change in the employee's life or a change in the work environment. This is different then an employee who has a habit of negative behavior. Though in both cases, your goal is to understand and orchestrate the change in behavior.

=>Handling the Problem Behavior

-Create a list of situations where you have noticed inappropriate behavior by the employee. This is so you can understand better how to deal with the situation.

-If the employee has several behaviors that need to change, I would be selective and choose the most important issue. If you present several issues at once, it is too overwhelming and the likelihood is nothing will change.

-You need to be specific about the actual behavior because stating to the employee he/she has to change their “attitude" accomplishes nothing. . . they don't have tangible examples in order to change.

-Present the issue as this is a problem for me and I need your support in creating a solution. It's a different way to approach the situation, one that elicits the employee's help in the solution.

-If the employee becomes defensive, simply restate the issue. Here is where you need to exhibit calmness and clarity. If the employee continues to be defensive, then clearly state that this behavior has to change and you are willing to work with the employee to help them find a solution.

-Find a way to allow the employee to take responsibility for the solution. If they don't, it is likely that this issue will not be resolved. Brainstorm on how they can change the behavior, but always keep the desired behavior as the goal.

-If this is the first time you are discussing the issue with the employee, create notes for your files. If the behavior persists, then you will need to create a behavior improvement plan and formalize the process.

-Always schedule a follow up meeting within a short period (no more than a few weeks). If the employee has altered their behavior, I suggest you have one more meeting to insure that they are consistent. If their behavior has not changed, then you need to put in place a formal improvement plan.

=>Final Note

Most employees want to perform well and behave in appropriate ways. In managing employees, your focus is to set the standards and support them in meeting those standards. Their job is to meet or exceed the standards.

Copyright (c) 2008 Pat Brill

Pat Brill is the author of the blog “Managing Employees" can reach her at


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