High Performer, Bad Attitude

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It was a beautiful morning. The sun was nice and bright yet there was a certain nip in the air that indicated it was going to be a wonderful day. I reached home in a positive mood after a good workout session (with endorphins at high) and saw my mother in law irritated with our cook. ‘She’s got a very bad attitude’ she scowled at me, for the cook hadn’t prepared a meal as per her instructions. It was a definite mood killer.

As the day went by, I came across two other stories that spoke about bad attitudes, especially at workplaces. I am also reminded of my own experiences in handling people with bad attitude and behaviours. How relationships suffer, how moods change and tempers fly, how clients are upset and deals are lost often when dealing with people with a bad attitude.

That is when I began to ponder. What is an attitude? Not in the sense of the definition which of course is available on the web. But my question is more in the sense of how one perceives it. If you believe something in a certain way and I do not, does that make me have a bad attitude? Does attitude mean not conforming to the rules; expectations set by authorities?

Consider this scenario —

‘A’ is one of the key contributors in your team. ‘A’ is an extremely productive employee with superb technical knowledge about all your products. ‘A’ is able to manage your customers very well which always ensures customer retention.

However ‘A’ has a bad attitude and does not get along well with colleagues. ‘A’ often arrives late and leaves early, checks mobile while in a discussion, is distracted in meetings, and often makes insulting remarks to colleagues. ‘A’ is often found complaining in front of the team about how bad the company is and how ‘A’ is waiting for an opportunity to get out. ‘

I’m sure you may have known a person like ‘A’ at some point in your career. How do you think A’s behaviour will impact the team?

According to studies conducted by Leadership IQ – 87% of employees say that working with someone with bad attitude actually made them want to change their jobs. A staggering 93% people say that working with people with bad attitude reduced their productivity and made the environment unhealthy.

Clearly bad or negative attitudes and the resulting behaviours, not just bring everyone down at the workplace; it is one of the most important factors for personal failure as well. No matter how skilled you are, if your attitude is not right, you are destined for doom. And by doom, I mean failure in the areas of life that you work so hard for.

How do you deal with Bad Attitude effectively?

When you are faced with the bad attitude, it is prudent that it is nipped in the bud. Bad behaviours that are not addressed become bigger, uglier and things can get out of your hand. As a manager, it is important to be vigilant about the kind of attitudes your team keeps.

This four step mantra worked wonderfully for me and it can work for you as well-

“ Calmly Communicate, Provide Relevant Proof, Mention Possible Repercussions, and Offer a Choice ”

Calmly Communicate – Document the behaviour and open a window of communication but specifically to the issue at hand. Remember to note specific physical and non-verbal behaviours and actions that concern you. Don’t make personal remarks, keep things to the issue at hand.

Provide Relevant Proof – Go down to specifics, issue and time where the attitude or behaviour was exhibited, the frequency of this behaviour etc.. Use most recent examples. You will be wasting your time if you don’t narrow down to recent incidents.

Mention Possible Repercussions – Clearly indicate the repercussions and eliminate status quo. Make sure the employee understands why this behaviour must end. Do not sound threatening as you are giving the employee a chance to change or improve.

Offer a Choice – The most important step of them all is to offer them a choice to change or help if needed in the positive direction.

Most of the time, a bad attitude could be a product of past negative experiences, beliefs and/or insecurities of life. Addressing their deep rooted issue will help them handle negative thoughts that usually trigger these beliefs. Cognitive and emotional processes don’t always agree with each other. Hence it would be crucial to identify if there is an emotion that directly affects the behaviour and if professional intervention (such as counselling) would have to be advised.

Points to Note:

It is important that you are in control of your emotions before you deal with people with bad attitude and behaviour.

  • Deal directly and discreetly. Choose face-to-face talk in private to discuss an employee’s attitude or behaviour.
  • Be calm before your meeting. You cannot concentrate on constructive alternatives if you are clinging to anger or anxiety within yourself.
  • Put the problem in hand to perspective. Don’t take the discussion personally
  • Be an active listener. Empathise. Situation can get worse if the person feels you’re not listening to them and you’re not serious for the change to happen
  • Be assertive if needed. Let them know when you’re annoyed, upset or disappointed.
  • Be straightforward. The more you remain matter-of-fact, the less you encourage an employee to play games.
  • Give and request feedback
  • Keep a record of all communication. This will be useful to prevent future disagreements if any.
  • Be prepared to fail. Some people with attitude problems can’t be saved no matter how much counselling you provide. If you feel the discussion is not headed as expected, it is better if you refer the matter to HR personnel.

On England and its allies winning the Second World War, Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” . Surely attitudes not just make a big difference to our lives, they make all the difference. Our lives almost entirely depend on the attitude we keep.

So how do you deal with bad attitudes at home? I shall cover this in part 2 of this article.

As for my cook, she gets a definitive warning from the home ministry. We will be reviewing her soon 🙂

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