Flashback: I just got promoted to a leadership role and I’m trying to figure out what to do about a guy named Doug who’s got a really bad attitude. Doug rolls his eyes in meetings when I say something he doesn’t like. He reacts badly to feedback and direction.

Not sure what to do, I procrastinate, hoping it’ll get better. It doesn’t, but I figure it’s a mere annoyance and that a little rebellion is just part of the package when you’re a boss.

Until one day …

A big embarassment
I’m in my office coaching my favorite employee — a smart, hard worker named Jenny who, I believe, thinks I’m a great boss. But when she’s about to leave she says, “You know, everybody’s noticed that Doug is really negative, not just with you but with everybody. Why do you put up with that?”

If you’d seen the look on her face you’d know why this was one of the great revelations of my management career. I thought she admired me. But her look said, “You’re pathetic.”

I learned two things that day that have always stayed with me: 1) Bad attitudes poison an entire team environment, not just the manager/employee relationship; and 2) When you’re a leader, everyone is looking to you to solve problems. Doug had an attitude problem. I wasn’t confronting it. And in the eyes of my direct reports that made me … well … pathetic.

You get the message. If you’ve got an employee with a lousy attitude, you’ve got to take action.

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