I’m a quality manager and one of my team members has a bad attitude. What can I do?

An employee’s “bad attitude” can fall into several categories. This can include an employee who:

• Is frequently disgruntled about his or her duties, the organisation or management

• Stirs up discontent for his or her own enjoyment

• Constantly spots flaws in new initiatives rather than focusing on what has gone well

• Is resistant to change

• Is lazy and refuses to be motivated.

This problem can be hard to solve because an employee may well be performing his or her duties adequately. There may be no tangible bad effects resulting from his or her outlook, but the negative feelings can spread throughout a team extremely quickly.

This problem cannot be ignored, especially if ignoring it would be the easy option. The first thing to note is that as a manager you should never criticise an employee’s personality. This is not appropriate and will not solve the problem. Calling someone lazy or criticising their mood fails to provide the necessary information needed to change the behaviour of that person, especially if it emerges that the problem stems from something in the wider business environment. You will need to take time to observe the person, making notes of instances where his or her behaviour has caused a problem.

Having specifics will mean that when you confront the employee, it will be hard for him or her to disagree with your comments. It would be beneficial to gain help from your organisation or management for backup. If an employee gets defensive when you call a meeting, having another manager who can testify to observing similar occurrences will help your case.

Once you’ve gathered your evidence, call a one-to-one meeting with the employee. Start by saying something positive rather than launching straight into how his or her behavior is bringing down the rest of the team. When you do reach the subject, start by asking how the employee feels and go from there. It may be that he or she will bring up the problem and give a cause – for example, feeling unsupported or having too much work to do.

Next, bring up the problem giving examples and being specific about the impact of the employee’s behaviour. How is this damaging the organisational vision? How is it making the rest of the team feel? Gently remind the employee that this could affect future rewards and bonuses.

Finally, don’t make the negative employee more negative by leaving the meeting on a bad note. This could do more damage and add fuel to the fire. Say something positive and make sure you both leave the meeting clear about future plans.



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