Bad Attitude – Be Gone!

Like most organizations, there are a few people we must manage that just have really bad attitudes.  I know – it is tempting to just terminate these employees, but sometimes troublesome workers are good at what they do and as much as you hate to admit it to yourself, you do not want to lose.  So how should you deal with these “bad-attitude” employees?

I can honestly say when I coach managers their first approach is to brand “bad-attitude” employees with telling the employee – “Pal, you’ve got a baaad attitude and better change it fast.” I understand because it feels good to say this and what an emotional release. But it is the one thing us managers should never do. Remember these employees have probably heard that line from parents, teachers and bosses all their lives and as strange as this may sound – they are proud to wear the label. They think it says, “I’m the rebel, the defiant one who stands up and says what everyone else is thinking but no one else dare say.” 

It is my opinion and observation as managers that we cannot change an employee with a bad attitude because this is a deeply held belief that is ingrained in their personality. And in a perverse sort of way, it works for them. The problem is that it frustrating for us managers and does not align with the organization. So, as managers we need to confront ‘bad-attitude’ employees, not with a general assessment of the “us-vs.-them” attitude – which sounds permanent and may be unchangeable – but with direct feedback about specific unacceptable behaviors that we can frame as temporary and possibly changeable.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Make it clear that this is not personal. You represent the company. The behavior is hurting the company and that is why it is important to address
  • Tell them you want them to become a productive member of the team. And make it clear that 1) you cannot help if they do not change their behavior; and 2) it is their responsibility to do.
  • Stress the “temporary” and “changeable” nature the specific behavior (as opposed to the “permanent” nature of attitude). In other words, you are not asking the employee to change who they are. You are asking they to change what they do.
  • Ask the employee if they understand exactly what you’re telling them. End the meeting by making them recap their understanding of the issue.  Listening carefully to make sure they got the message, understand that the change is their responsibility, and realize that there will be consequences (i.e. discipline and/or termination) if they do not change their behavior.

When you use this approach, one of two things will happen:  The employee will bring their behavior in line with your expectations. Or you managers will quickly discover that the behavior will not change in which case they do not belong on your team. Either way, as managers you resolve the problem quickly and decisively. And in the end, that is good for you and the organization.

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The Do’s and Don’t of Talking to Top Executives

There are several challenges to getting the attention of top executives.  When you do, it is important to remember that this is your opportunity to impress and to present your case.  And a raw data dump usually will not work; nor will a long, number-filled report without an executive summary.  You need to know how to present arguments to CEOs and other C-suite people so as to maximize your chances of being heard.

In order to help you make the most of your talk with your top executives, consider these dos and don’ts:


  • Frame your message in terms of how it will reduce risk, improve the bottom line or affect the organization’s future.
  • Remember the CEO’s main interest is optimizing the business’s resources, and your proposal should show him/her how you can help meet that goal.
  • Speak the language of the CEO by using appropriate terms like ROI, operating profit, operating expenses, cash flow, and the like.  You know the great buzz words.


  • Get stuck in the present. The CEO is about big picture thinking and where the business will be in three months, six months, and five years. If you come in talking about the fire you are putting out today, you will risk appearing trivial.
  • Overload your message with detail. Yes, you have occasion where you must think about step-by-step processes. But do not bring that level of detail to the C-suite table. A top executive’s attitude: You are paid to take care of the nitty-gritty.
  • Beat around the bush. Talking to the CEO is like nothing you can imagine. This executive is juggling multiple priorities and must see immediate value in what you’re bringing to him/her. Otherwise, they will tune you out in the blink of an eye.

Remember it is your time to shine.  Do not blow it!  Do you agree or agree?  Any advice you would like to share?

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