Six steps to take when somebody ‘cops an attitude’

by on November 14, 2011 · 2 Comments POSTED IN: HR Cafe
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For most managers, it’s pretty easy to deal with employees who shirk their work or flagrantly misbehave: They either shape up or ship out. But what about the more nuanced situation where an OK performer has “attitude problems” – is defensive, passive aggressive, sullen, or otherwise tough to work with?

Positive confrontation
Management guru Florence Stone suggests a six-step process to help you confront the person in a positive way:

  1. Identify behavior. Link the attitude with specific behaviors. If the person is, say, overly suspicious of others’ motives, point out the resulting lack of cooperation. Don’t omit “small” behaviors like eye-rolling or sighing.
  2. Note frequency. How often does the behavior occur? Once a week? Daily? Keep count and tell the person.
  3. Report impact. Explain the harm the behavior is causing the team, department or business.
  4. Listen. Employees may have reasons for their attitudes. Even if the behavior can’t be justified, some reasons may warrant other action, like a transfer or a referral to an Employee Assistance Program.
  5. Put up a stop sign. Tell the employee the attitude and resulting behavior must stop. Don’t assume the person will draw that conclusion
  6. Show the path forward. Describe the future behavior you want to see. You aim to make things better, not just bearable.

Readers: Do any of you have other methods for handling decent employees whose personality makes them tough to work with? Without going into too much detail (please omit names of companies and employees), feel free to share them in the comments.

Source: “Coaching, Counseling and Mentoring,” by Florence M. Stone.

photo credit: justinlincoln

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  • Michael Brisciana

    Stephen – – – 

    Thanks for an insightful post, as always.  I fully agree, and would add one “preventative” measure that a manager (and a company at large) can take … 

    … establish a “code of principles” or “code of behaviors” or “expectations”

    … while this is usually cast as “prohibited” behaviors, the company should make a proactive statement regarding positive behaviors that it expects (e.g., support for colleagues, positive contributions to the work environment, etc.).

    … by doing so, the company gives its managers (and all employees) the “language” up front that it can use when someone’s behavior doesn’t meet the established expectations (or “norms”)

    … for the positive behaviors to become the “norm,” they must be discussed from the time of hiring, through orientation, and then on a regular basis throughout the year

    … then, when someone behaves badly, the manager can use the “code” as a reference point when discussing the poor conduct with the employee

    I’ve found this to be both protective of the company legally, as well as effective in “enforcing” positive behavioral expectations.

    Thanks again,

    Michael Brisciana

  • Michael Brisciana

    Stephen – – – 

    Thanks for an insightful post, as always.  I fully agree, and would add one “preventative” measure that a manager (and a company at large) can take … 

    … establish a “code of principles” or “code of behaviors” or “expectations”

    … while this is usually cast as “prohibited” behaviors, the company should make a proactive statement regarding positive behaviors that it expects (e.g., support for colleagues, positive contributions to the work environment, etc.).

    … by doing so, the company gives its managers (and all employees) the “language” up front that it can use when someone’s behavior doesn’t meet the established expectations (or “norms”)

    … for the positive behaviors to become the “norm,” they must be discussed from the time of hiring, through orientation, and then on a regular basis throughout the year

    … then, when someone behaves badly, the manager can use the “code” as a reference point when discussing the poor conduct with the employee

    I’ve found this to be both protective of the company legally, as well as effective in “enforcing” positive behavioral expectations.

    Thanks again,

    Michael Brisciana

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