How To Manage An Employee With A Bad Attitude:
- Ask to speak in private.
- Start by outlining their behavior with facts, not judgments (ex. “I noticed that you rolled your eyes at Dan when he asked for help.”)
- Detail the impact this can have on the team (ex. “I worry that this gives the impression that you aren’t interested in supporting the team, and might make others less inclined to work with you.”)
- Finally, get agreement on how you can move forward ( ex. “Did you realize you did that? Do you agree that behavior is counter to our values and culture?”)
You care about your direct reports, and since you see them almost every day, you probably know them pretty well. This can often leave us thinking we know them, and their motivations, pretty well.
This is why when an employee suddenly snaps at us, gets short with coworkers, and is generally irritable, it can leave us feeling as though we know exactly what’s going on.
But leaders can’t read minds, and that means treading carefully when it comes to interpreting demeanor.
After all, what does a bad attitude actually look like? Is it being openly critical? Silent and glum? Sarcastic? Or just plain grumpy?
Discussing negative attitudes with employees is among the most difficult forms of feedback you can give.
To Broach The Subject, Drop The Judgment
Telling someone (especially an employee) that their attitude is bad, grumpy, or disrespectful, is too general and judgmental to be effective.
Assessing a direct report’s mindset is not an exact science. What you may interpret as a sign of irritation, someone else might see as a symptom of anxiety.
While giving feedback on how to format documents is straightforward, giving direct feedback to an employee about how you think they might be feeling is a whole other ballgame.
For a more effective way to give employee feedback, stick to the think B.I.G.(Behavior, impact and get agreement.) Outline the behavior in question, detail the impact that behavior can have on the team or company, and finally, get agreement on how things should change going forward.
Simply saying, “It seems like you have a bad attitude lately,” will immediately put your employee on the defense. Now it’s a conversation filled with denials and backpedaling.
To keep things on track, put additional emphasis on their actual behavior. Your observations should focus only on the facts and be judgment-free.
Here’s A Sample Of Dialogue For How You Can Approach A Difficult Employee:
“Ben, yesterday I noticed that you rolled your eyes at Dan when he asked for help. Then, at the team meeting, you sighed when Shannon asked a question. I worry that this gives the impression that you aren’t interested in supporting the team, and might make others less inclined to work with you. Did you realize you did that? Do you agree that behavior is counter to our values and culture?”
By keeping your observations factual and assumption-free, your direct report will be far more likely to open up and discuss what’s going on.
Remember: When It Comes To Attitude, Everything Is Subjective.
Stick to describing the actual behavior in question, and say it within a relatively close timeline. If you mention that time they huffed after a question two months ago, they’re likely to feel monitored.
As with any feedback you give your team, focus on behavior, impact, and getting agreement on how things can change going forward. For bad attitudes or irritability, be particularly mindful of the behavior, and keep it as non-judgmental as possible.
You may also like:
- LEADx Leadership Show #191: How To Give Effective Feedback (Part 2)
- Giving Feedback That's Radically Transparent by Joe Hirsh
- Make Your Employees Happy & Your Company Rich by Vania Mathas
- HBR's How To Manage A Toxic Employee by Amy Gallo