July 28, 2011 1 Comment
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.