As a business owner, you probably already know that good employees are hard to find. That is why we value great employees for their productivity, performance, and commitment to their job. However, what happens when you have a great employee with a bad attitude? This is a situation any business owner, entrepreneur, or manager will experience at one point or another.
Every workplace experiences employees who lower morale. These employees may not typically make significant errors that draw attention to themselves. But like a hidden virus running in the background of a computer, bad attitudes can corrode company morale.
Although a perfect employee does not exist, a good employee with a bad attitude presents a unique challenge: should you choose between performance or morale? Hopefully, you won’t have to choose as we will present what to do when a good employee has a bad attitude. But first, let’s take a look at the reasons why some good employees exhibit negative attitudes in the first place.
Why Would a Good Employee Have a Bad Attitude?
Unfortunately, an unfavorable attitude of just a few employees can negatively affect the entire workforce. It can also affect the company’s profitability, undermine management authority, and detract from everyone’s enjoyment of their time at work. This is made worse when the employee perpetuating the negativity is one of your top performers. There are a number of reasons why a top performer’s attitude changes or gets worse.
Here are a few reasons why this could happen:
- The employee feels entitled-When a good performer feels they are owed more than others in the same position, they may develop a negative attitude towards their co-workers and management.
- The company culture is fostering negativity-Perhaps the company culture has changed. The change may have turned the good employee “off” to the company and its goals. When this happens, you will sometimes witness good employees begin to not care about their jobs.
- The good employee is overconfident-A good employee may feel like they are “above the law” in a sense. They may be so overconfident in their performance that they feel as though they do not need to abide by the rules. They also may feel as though they do not need to be respectful to others because of their job performance. Essentially, the employee may feel they are too valuable to reap any negative consequences of their behavior.
- The employee is no longer happy with their position-When an employee is no longer happy with their position, for any reason, it may begin to appear in their behavior. A change in attitude in an employee is also a sign that an employee is about to quit.
There are several reasons why a good employee would develop a bad attitude. Some of the reasons may have to do with you and your company. Others may be completely independent of both of those.
Meet with the Employee and Express Concerns
To prevent bad attitudes from contaminating an organization, it is best to speak with these employees about their actions and work with them to find solutions to their workplace issues. Before meeting with the employee, be cognizant of handling this manner privately. Ideally, the meeting is conducted on neutral ground. This could be a conference room, rather than a manager’s office. By providing a relaxed setting, the employee will be less intimidated and, ideally, feel more at ease with having an honest dialogue.
Determine whether the employee’s general attitude can be interpreted as having a bad attitude or if there is a larger issue at play. Inform the worker that you are worried they are projecting a negative attitude, as they may not be aware of their actions.
Avoid criticizing the worker for what seems to be an attitude issue. Instead, provide specific examples of the employee’s actions that support your observations, and allow ample time for the employee to respond.
Attempt to Address the Cause of the Attitude
After giving the employee specific examples and allowing them to respond, repeat to the employee what you heard them say. Repeating things to the employee will ensure you are on the same page and no misunderstandings have occurred.
Please pay attention to the employees’ comments; they could reveal a more profound issue occurring at work or in their personal lives that may be the root cause of their attitude. It’s important to allow employees to express their worries, give them a voice, and a chance to explain their conduct, all of which may help resolve the negative attitude.
Prevent the Negative Attitude from Spreading
One thing you want to avoid is the spreading of negativity amongst your team. A negative attitude, similar to a positive one, is contagious. This is when you want to prevent the spread of negativity to other employees.
Inform the employee that their current behavior could impact their coworkers and how you are trying to cultivate a positive and encouraging work environment. Explain how crucial it is to maintain a positive attitude and that failing to do so could harm the manager’s perception of them and hinder their advancement in position and career. It is also wise to empower the employee and ensure they know they can always address their concerns, challenges, and issues occurring in the company with their managers.
Take Corrective Action if Things do Not Improve
Ignoring an employee with a chronic bad attitude could not only lower morale but also have a detrimental effect on productivity. It can also cause other good employees to quit, or even result in legal action. While having these talks can be awkward and uncomfortable, confronting the issues head-on will help stop the negativity before it spreads.
- Document bad behaviors – A “poor attitude” is a general term, so be as specific as possible when documenting issues with an employee. Note unacceptable behaviors, where they took place, who else was involved, and as many details as possible surrounding the situation. Be as descriptive as possible, including the date and any other pertinent information. Also, try only to include information. Additionally, note any grievances voiced by other workers.
- Discuss the behavior and why it is problematic – Discuss the employee’s behavioral issues in private and set the appropriate tone. While you want to be firm, you don’t want to come across as harsh or patronizing. Explain the difficulties you’ve noticed and why they’re a problem without criticizing the individual. If applicable, identify areas in the employee handbook that violate the in-question behaviors.
Remember that there may be justifications for the employee’s negative attitude. For example, is the workload overwhelming? Does the employee have a personal issue at home weighing on their mind? Allow the employee to respond. Improvement in the employee’s attitude is the goal. So, be sure the employee understands what is expected of them. Specify precisely what behaviors you wish to see improved.
Be Willing to Part with the Employee
After a thorough discussion of the matter, if the employee isn’t open to change or doesn’t see what they did wrong, you may need to take disciplinary action against them. Suspending them may be a crucial step. However, you must be willing to terminate their employment.
Termination could be the wisest course of action in some circumstances. It may also be the only solution to extreme behaviors and a persistent bad attitude. Again, ensure to document the incident thoroughly. As we mentioned earlier, there are times when nothing can be done to change a person’s attitude. Termination may save your company culture and your other employees’ happiness.
At work, negativity and bad attitudes can destroy productivity. Managers can lessen the likelihood of bad attitudes spreading by taking the time to talk about the matter. It must be done in a non-hostile manner; seeking a positive resolution and changed behavior.
While dealing with conflict and an employee exhibiting a bad attitude may be uncomfortable, it is necessary to be direct and nip the problem in the bud before the bad attitude can spread or cause irreparable damage to the company.