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Dealing with an employee with a negative attitude

By 18/11/2016August 8th, 2023Employee Management

It is not uncommon for a workplace to have one or two employees that are known for their negative attitude towards their jobs. Unfortunately, the negative attitude exuding from just a couple of members of staff can have a negative impact upon the entire workforce and even the success of the business. Given enough time, this kind of attitude could cause irreparable damage, resulting in other members of staff leaving the company, as well as customers choosing to take their business elsewhere. For this reason, it is a good idea to address any concerns over an employee with a negative attitude as soon as you can, to reduce the impact it has one everyone else around them.

Identifying employees with bad attitudes

Before you can deal with these employees, you first need to be able to identify the ones that have a negative attitude. Though you might think that this should be obvious, it isn’t always the case. It is not uncommon for an employee with a negative attitude to be adequate in their work and quiet in their role so as not to stand out as a trouble maker to the boss, while still having a negative attitude towards other co-workers, customers and their work. To spot these negative minded employees, look out for ones who:

  • Undermine the authority of management, criticising decisions made.
  • Complain frequently about the business, their workload, customers or colleagues.
  • Exaggerate problems or mistakes made by either the company or other members of staff.
  • Gossips about other employees or management to cause tension between staff members.

Preparing to speak to employees with a bad attitude

Once you have identified the team members that have a bad attitude in the workplace, the next step is to prepare yourself for speaking to them. To do this, think about what impact you believe the bad attitude is having on the business and those that work with the individual, how you feel the behaviour of the attitude employee differs from the rest of the staff and what difference you think it would make to the morale of the business and team members if this bad attitude were eradicated.

It is a good idea to make sure you have a good framework in place within the company, that there are policies regarding how an employee should behave and work and if possible, print this out to have a copy of it for the meeting. During the meeting, you can refer back to this and show the employee where they are falling short of their duties and responsibilities within their role in the company.

It is also a good idea to have more than one person conduct the meeting, with at least one supervisor or HR representative in the room. Doing this will help the employee to see that concerns over the bad attitude are shared by more than one supervisor/manager/staff member and are not a personal attack.

Tips for speaking to an employee with an attitude

When you speak to an employee with a bad attitude towards work, try to ensure you:

  • Try to make the employee feel more comfortable. These kinds of meetings can be quite awkward as the topic is one that is difficult to discuss, let the employee you appreciate the awkwardness and it is natural to feel that way.
  • Focus on results and productivity, do not make it personal. The employee needs to know that you are not personally attacking them, so try to use phrases like “I am bringing this up because it is important you address this problem to be successful in your job role”.
  • Focus on the positive. For example, you can tell an employee what they do/how they behave which is good, and/or you can explain how makes changes to attitude will improve on job performance going forward.
  • Be specific, have an example of a bad attitude that you want changing and avoid being vague about what your issue is. Telling an employee that you don’t like their attitude is not going to be very productive, telling an employee that their gossiping about co-workers causes tension, on the other hand, is much more direct.
  • Listen to what your employee has to say, they may tell you the root cause of their attitude. Even if they don’t, letting the employee speak will allow them to voice their concerns, make them feel like they have a voice, give them chance to defend their actions and generally allow them to blow off steam, all of which might in itself, help the bad attitude situation.
  • Be inclusive, try to use words like ‘we’ (i.e. “we feel like your attitude has declined etc.) and avoid using ‘you’ too often as this directs blame onto one person and may make them feel singled out.
  • Avoid adding a ‘but’ or ‘however’ onto the end of positive statements, otherwise, your employee will feel like you can’t say anything nice, without turning it into a negative. Give your employee some positive feedback and go onto say how this could be made even better instead of saying where it needs improvement.
  • Give the employee time to think about what you are saying. As a manager, it is tempting to try to fill awkward silences within a meeting, but sometimes this can anger the other person. Instead, allow silences within the meeting, give your employee time to think and appreciate exactly what you are saying.

When it comes to dealing with employees with a bad attitude it is important to keep in mind that everyone is different and as such, every employee should be treated differently. Understand and work with the employee on a personal level, to find an approach that works in changing their attitude. For more information on how to deal with employees effectively by using HR tech, download our Infopack.

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