One employee with a bad attitude can pose a risk to an entire team's productivity, so it is crucial for a leader to address the negative behavior promptly.
Negative attitudes can easily spread throughout teams and cause burnout.
Before an employee's bad attitude blows out of proportion, it is a manager's responsibility to speak to the employee and get to the root of the problem.
Not all expressions of negativity are a sign of risk and it is important to note that we all have tough days. A strong leader knows when to pull an employee aside and speak to them about improving their behavior in a way that is constructive and motivating.
We've provided some tips for navigating one of the most difficult responsibilities of a team leader so you confidently speak to an employee about improving their attitude.
Define the Bad Attitude
Before you speak to an employee about improving their behavior, you need to define their bad attitude.
Sometimes a leader may have a run-in with an employee that leaves a bad taste in their mouth and rubs them the wrong way. However, you shouldn't jump to reprimand the employee immediately unless the situation is particularly disrespectful or downright rule-breaking.
If it is a one-time situation, take some time to let the interaction digest and consider your mood at the time and consider their general behavior.
If an employee violates sexual misconduct rules, becomes violent, or says something racist, then you should always address these behavior issues immediately.
If you are a leader and other team members have come to you to discuss a coworker with a bad attitude, stick to the facts of the actual behavior and avoid gossip. You want to listen to the frustrated coworkers but you also want to consider the full story. In this situation, it could be an instance of bullying or incompatible working partners so you may need to plan a group meeting.
If an employee shows a consistently negative attitude, write down what they have done with specifics. You need to make sure that you have concrete examples of this bad behavior before you discuss it with the employee.
Some questions to help you pin down the bad attitude are:
Is the employee late often?
Does the employee talk back to leaders about work requirements?
Is the employee gossiping and spreading rumors about individuals?
Is the employee disrespectful to clients, coworkers, or leaders?
Is the employee failing to meet job performance requirements?
Is a high-performing employee acting cocky and looking down upon their coworkers?
Does the employee lie about what they have accomplished and fail to communicate?
Is the employee rude when giving customer service?
Does the employee display anger issues or make others uncomfortable?
Does the employee respond with hostile tones when asked to perform a task?
Once you consider these different definitions of bad behavior, document the instances of an employee's poor attitude. If you have noticed they have been late a few times in a row, begin to keep track. You should have specifics and examples to address when you pull them aside to talk.
When To Address Bad Behavior
Depending on the nature and severity of the inappropriate behavior you should address it right away. As we mentioned above, instances of sexual misconduct, violence, and racism should always be addressed immediately as well as any other personal attacks that violate an individual's identity.
For other bad behaviors like poor performance, snarky remarks, and lateness, you might want to wait until the employee has acted against the behavioral expectations a couple of times. The timing may depend on your company policies, but if you reprimand an employee's bad behavior when they generally have a very positive attitude, you may risk hurting your relationship with the employee if you just caught them on a bad day.
Many employers implement monthly or quarterly check-ins and employee performance reviews so this is a perfect time frame to discuss their attitude issues. If the behavior warrants a sooner meeting, it is best to schedule a meeting at the end of the shift and, even better, at the end of the workweek so they have time away to digest the feedback.
You should also address the employee privately and avoid drawing attention to the meeting with other employees. Always respect the employee's privacy and make time to give them your full attention.
What to Say
It can be hard to know exactly what to say or how to start your meeting when you are addressing an employee's attitude. The best approach is to come into the meeting with a positive attitude.
The employee may be nervous or know that they have messed up, so reassure them that they are valuable to your company and maybe highlight their strengths first. This will build a bridge of trust between you and the employee so they are open to hearing constructive feedback.
When you bring up the employee's performance review to address their behavior, give examples and specifics.
Explain why this behavior is against company core values and why it is bad for the workplace environment. Then ask them how they feel about this feedback.
How the employee responds is crucial and as a strong leader, you should take this time to listen to what they have to say. Sometimes disrespectful employees may be going through a hard time in their personal life. Employees who aren't meeting performance expectations may be frustrated with the pace or may need more training.
By listening to how the employee responds, you may be able to empathize with where they are coming from and begin to make a plan for improving their attitude and even fixing operational issues that may be the root cause.
Make a Plan for Improvement
Once you have given the employee behavioral feedback and listened to their response to your feedback, you can begin to work with them to make a plan for improvement.
The employee may have given you more background information as to why their behavior hasn't been meeting expectations. You can determine if this information may require adjustments to workflows or operations.
If the employee takes the constructive feedback well and is ready to commit to improvement, you can give actionable advice. Layout the attendance expectations, acceptable workplace conduct, or behavioral standard that the employee should strive for and set goals together.
Then you can encourage the employee to reach out to you or another member of the leadership team if they are having a hard time. Finally, set a date for another meeting to check in on their progress.
If the employee in on receptive to feedback or if they fail to improve after the second employee performance review, then it may be time to let the employee go. This is never an easy decision, but make sure you consult with other leaders for balanced feedback before firing an employee.
If you're looking to hire experienced employees with great attitudes, read our blog about Why Recruiting is the Most Effective Business Strategy and check out our Recruitment Services.