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How do I Solve an Attitude Problem?

The individual’s quality and quantity of work are okay. It’s his attitude that’s the problem. How do I solve an attitude problem?

Ask any group of managers what the most common ‘‘people problem’’ they encounter is and they will uniformly answer, ‘‘Attitude problems.’’

One of the reasons that attitude problems seem so hard to resolve is that almost anything qualifies as an attitude problem. Is the employee a loner, unwilling to participate in team activities? He’s got an attitude problem. Is she egotistical, grabbing all of the credit for others’ work? She’s got an attitude problem. Does he pick his nose and make rude noises? Ah, another attitude problem.

This step-by-step checklist will help you to confront and resolve attitude problems.

Checklist for Resolving Attitude Problems

  • Narrow the issue to the specific problem or concern.
  • Write down the specific verbal and physical behaviors and actions that concern you.
  • Track the frequency.
  • Identify the impact.
  • Discuss the situation with the individual.
  • Determine whether the individual has a logical reason for the behavior.
  • Tell the individual to stop engaging in the problem behavior.
  • Tell the individual what behavior is required: courteous, cooperative, and helpful.

Tell Me More

Narrow the issue to the specific problem or concern. Begin by identifying the specific type of behavior that you are concerned with. Here is a list of various behaviors that could be labeled as attitude problems.

Identify the one that comes the closest to the actual behavior of the individual whose performance you’re concerned with:

Annoying /offensive behavior              Insensitive to others
Careless/frivolous                        Insubordinate
Complaining                               Lazy
Defensive                                 Negative/cynical
Disruptive                                Pouting
Egotistical /credit-grabbing              Rude/surly /inconsiderate
Explosive                                 Quarrelsome
Inattentive to work                       Socializing

Write down the specific verbal and physical behaviors and actions that concern you. The requirement that you write down the items that concern you will force you to focus on specifics. And don’t forget to record the nonverbal behaviors (i.e., rolling of the eyes, clenching fists, staring off into space). Pretend you’re a movie camera or a tape recorder actually recording exactly what it is that’s unfolding in front of you.

Track the frequency. Make a record of how often the various behaviors that concern you arise.

Identify the impact. Make a list of the good business reasons that this behavior must stop.

Discuss the situation with the individual. Explain that the behavior is causing a problem.

Determine whether the individual has a logical reason for the behavior. It is possible that the person may be unaware of what he’s doing or doesn’t realize that it’s distracting to others. It may also turn out that the ‘‘attitude problem’’ you’ve identified is a symptom of a more serious problem that needs a referral to the employee assistance program.

Tell the individual to stop engaging in the problem behavior. Too often, supervisors fail to take this key step. You must directly tell the person to stop doing whatever it is that he is doing.

Tell the individual what behavior is required: courteous, cooperative, and helpful. Unfortunately, many managers feel that they have to live with what the person is and thereby accept a lot of inappropriate behaviors. This is not true. Supervisors put up with way too much crap. Every organization has the right to demand that everyone who is on the payroll act in a courteous, cooperative, and helpful manner. If the employee says, ‘‘Well, that’s not in my job description,’’ grab his job description and write it in. If he says, ‘‘Well, that’s just the way I am,’’ tell him that he will need to find a job with another employer that is willing to accept him just the way he is, because you are not.