Someone on Your Team has an Attitude Problem. Now What?

Good leadership is not an inborn trait; it takes a person who is caring, fair and consistent, skilled in people management and willing to take responsibility for his or her team’s performance. A truly effective leader is knowledgeable about performance problems and willing to deal with them. Performance problems seldom correct themselves—it takes skilled intervention, including setting performance standards and goals for employees.

Football players listening to coach in locker roomDifficult employees affect everyone in the workplace—their behavior not only inhibits their performance, but it negatively affects everyone in the work environment as well. When difficult employees and behaviors are not addressed, the behavior can become infectious and take on many forms like rudeness, bullying, gossiping, refusing to communicate or share information, whining and complaining to supervisors, ignoring directives and slow output of work or missed deadlines.

Here are some immediate steps you can take when you identify poor attitudes and poor performance.

Steps with the employee

Bla, bla, bla... I won't listen!1. Get HR involved—give them the facts and how the employee’s attitude or performance is affecting the department. Be specific.

2. Take the lead and open communication. Explore the reasons behind the unfavorable conduct—this starts with a private and candid conversation with the employee.

3. Directly tie the staff member’s negative behaviors to the department’s goals, functions and objectives

4. Do not discuss an “attitude” problem with the employee. Instead, give specific examples and discuss the relationship between the negative behavior and staff productivity and morale.

Steps with the entire team

1. Encourage open communication as a two-way street

2. Model ethical and other positive behaviors in your department

3. Clearly communicate to your team that not only are individual contributions important, so is a respectful, collaborative team environment, and everyone is expected to contribute to that environment

4. Make certain that project priorities are clear to everyone

Shocked Business Woman While Calling on PhoneAlthough everyone you’ll interact with is unique, therefore requiring you to adapt your communication techniques accordingly, “difficult personalities” evidence certain commonalities in general response to certain strategies on your part. When handling difficult employees, it’s vital for the manager to be open, direct, calm and assertive. Keeping a calm, confident manner is key to being successful.

1. Define what “unacceptable behavior” is and what the important rules are for your workplace
2. Write and communicate specific, measurable standards and expectations
3. Give employees a clear picture of the benefits for honoring policies, standards and agreements
4. Paint a clear picture of the consequences for not honoring the policies, standards and agreements
5. Enforce the policies consistently, without exception
6. Realize that you can’t legislate “attitude”
7. Examine your own “filters” and determine if the problem is the employee’s attitude or your own
8. Acknowledge employees for their skills and abilities. Give them challenging work.
9. Improve your relationship with employees. Get to know them.

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