Confronting Employees with Bad Attitudes

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By Bradley A. Kletscher
In Brief Newsletter Winter 2006

Every employer has had an employee with a poor attitude. It may be the employee who gives fellow employees the cold shoulder. Or it may be an employee who tells you he will follow instructions and then turns around and does what he wants. It might even be an employee who is rude to customers who are asking for help. While each situation is different, the common theme is that the employee has a bad attitude.


Employment Law


As hard as it is from a personal level to confront employees with a bad attitude, and employer must do it. Allowing a bad attitude to continue will only make the work situation intolerable. An employee with a bad attitude can cause you to lose customers, to lose good employees, to decrease productivity or in general to deplete the attitude of other workers in the workplace. Following are some suggestions which may help you deal with this issue.

First, look for a candidate with a good attitude during the hiring process. During the interview, ask questions designed to reveal the potential employee’s attitude in varying work situations. When you talk to references, try to ascertain the potential employee’s attitude while employed. Prevention is the best medicine, so if you can hire someone who displays a positive attitude from the beginning you will lower your risk of having someone with a bad attitude in the future.

Second, make “getting along” part of the description for all open positions. Your company job descriptions, handbook, and policies should set forth that getting along is an obligation of the employee. This puts the employee on notice as to what behavior is expected and makes it easier for an employer to correct bad behavior.

Third, tell your employees exactly what your expectations are regarding attitude. If you want employees to smile at customers and greet them with a warm hello, then tell them to greet clients with a smile and friendly hello. Being up front with your expectations on attitude will give your employees a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Fourth, include measurements of attitude in your evaluations. To do this, include attitude as a category in your performance appraisal process. If attitude is a problem, be specific as to what the problem is an discuss adjustments that could be made with the employee. Opening this line of communications could reveal helpful solutions. Succinctly confronting an employee with a bad attitude may cause him to review his style and make an extra effort attitude wise.

Fifth, if you have an employee with a bad attitude, address the issues promptly. If an employee’s attitude is outright disrespectful, don’t tolerate the behavior. Holding everyone accountable, including management, for behaviors that show a bad attitude will enable you to create an enthusiastic and comfortable work environment. Ignoring such attitudes invites trouble and risks the suffering of your corporate culture as well as your company’s productivity.

Finally, it is important to always document bad attitude. Sometimes, no matter what you do, bad attitudes can’t be corrected. If you can’t change the bad behavior, termination is the answer. Keeping detailed documentation of the ad attitude is important. Not only does documentation deter potential litigation, but it can be the deference between winning a losing if litigation is commenced.

Although it is doubtful that the person in the workplace with a lack of pep will ever turn into the leader of “pep fest” , you can properly manage a bad attitude. If you establish clear expectations and hold employees to account for their attitudes, you can extract attitude improvements. If attitude improvement proves impossible, following the proper procedures in termination can help eliminate further negative impacts to your workplace.

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