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Conflict in the Workplace: How should companies speak to an employee about improving their attitude?

Employees who are displaying a poor attitude in your workplace can affect your company’s culture more than you might think. A negative attitude can have a far bigger effect on a team than you may think of at first.

The truth is most managers do not enjoy tackling personnel issues, like a worker’s attitude, because in the workplace, as with most other places, people don’t like conflict.

But fear not, in this article, we’re going to discuss how you can identify and address such issues in the workplace so that you can handle the situation tactfully:

Looking for answers – 3 key questions

The first step is identifying if one of your staff is showcasing the characteristics of someone with a poor attitude. At this stage, the key questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • What’s the impact of the employee’s behaviour on their duties and the wider company?
  • How do the person’s actions differ from the standards set for overall employee behaviour, and is it in breach of their workplace contract?
  • What’s the effect of this individual’s behaviour on the people who work with him/her?

Identifying attitude employees

So, once we’ve answered the three key questions, we are now able to identify the staff members who are displaying a negative attitude in your workplace. To spot these negative minded employees, look out for your staff members who display:

1. Lateness: People arriving late is a very common occurrence in the average workforce of today. For most employers, these are isolated incidents and there’s a perfectly good reason for them, such as bad traffic or a late bus, but when someone makes poor punctuality a habit, it can cause serious problems both directly and indirectly. As well as impacting productivity, it’s a sign that your employee is disengaged and unmotivated in their work.

2. Rudeness: The workplace should be a positive, comfortable, and inviting place for employees to spend their days, so rude attitudes are simply unacceptable and can result in a hostile workplace. Rudeness can be particularly problematic if it impacts your client relationships, too.

3. Bullying: Workplace bullying is, unfortunately, a common problem in the workplace of today, and as a result, it can have a major impact on the happiness of your workforce and the productivity of the business. Common instances of workplace bullying include individuals being unfairly treated or excluded by their peers.

4. Having nothing positive to say: Constant negativity being displayed by an employee is a warning sign that someone is unhappy in their job and lacks the engagement or motivation required to do their job to the best of their ability. Furthermore, negative attitudes can swiftly spread and bring the entire workforce down.

5. Not responding well to criticism: Accepting feedback isn’t always easy, but employees should recognise the difference between understandable disappointment and showing an unprofessional, disrespectful attitude to anyone who offers constructive criticism.

6. Lying: Misrepresenting your credentials, lying on timesheets, misusing expense accounts or even stealing the credit for a co-worker’s accomplishments, is generally frowned upon by others and can lead to distrust in the workplace with other staff members.

7. Poor e-mail communication: This can range from everything from not responding to e-mails, to not putting on an out-of-office reply, to not being aware of how you come across in an e-mail via the tone of your language. As a result of this, employees could miss important meetings or deadlines, cause delays or confusion, or even come off as unprofessional.

8. Poor grammar: When you hear someone using poor grammar, slang, or profanity, it translates into a belief that the person is being unprofessional. Your staff need to remember that they are not at home, or speaking with friends at a social gathering, and what they may consider as ‘banter’ may be offensive to someone else.

9. Inefficiency: Bad habits like being unorganised, wasting time, or being too talkative can make you an extremely inefficient worker, and can even impact others. Generally, this can be seen as spending too much time on water cooler talk, having a messy and unorganised desk, and spending too much time on non-work-related tasks.

Tips for speaking to an employee with an attitude

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 will need to be approached uniquely.

With that being said, when you speak to an employee to help them improve their attitude, there are several tips that you can implement to make sure you can help them improve their attitude in the workplace.

1. Try to make the employee feel more comfortable: These meetings can be quite awkward as the topic can be difficult to discuss, so try to make sure the setting is an inviting one to discuss their attitude.

2. Focus on results and productivity, do not make it personal: The employee needs to know that you are not personally attacking them and that you’re trying to help them with their personal development. Because of this, you should try to use phrases like “I am bringing this up because you must address this problem to be successful in your job role.”

3. Be specific, have an example of a bad attitude that you want to change 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, or help them improve. Instead, you should try a more direct approach like telling the employee that their gossiping about co-workers causes tension.

4. 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 and make them feel like they have a voice. As with any performance-based meeting, you must give them a chance to defend their actions and to speak about the concerns that you have raised.

Natural HR

About Natural HR

Natural HR is a cloud-based HR software company for growing businesses with 100+ employees. Since launching in 2010, we’ve been building a comprehensive suite of HR functionality that equips the small to medium-sized enterprise with everything needed to build an effective and efficient HR operation.