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Taming the shrews: How to counsel admins with attitude

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in Admins,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Office Management,People Management,Performance Reviews

With some people, the problem isn't a matter of ability, it's a matter of attitude. This can manifest itself in everything from quiet disobedience to outright insubordination.

How should you respond? Rather than becoming entangled in a debate about his or her dysfunctional attitude, address the situation strictly as a behavioral problem. That way, it's not only easier to resolve, but also a better way to make a case for dismissal.

Your first step is to document the behavior. Write down specific verbal and physical behaviors and actions that concern you, hurt team morale, damage productivity or reflect badly on the organization. Don't forget to record nonverbal behaviors, such as rolling eyes, clenching fists and staring into space.

Get this step-by-step outline on how to effectively document employee performance.

Narrow the issue to the precise problem. Identify exactly what type of behavior the attitude has caused. This list may help:

  • Carelessness
  • Complaining
  • Disruptive or explosive conduct
  • Inattention to work
  • Insensitivity to others
  • Insubordination
  • Laziness
  • Negative/cynical posture
  • Surly/inconsiderate/rude talk
  • Excessive socializing

Record the frequency of such misconduct, plus how it affects work flow and colleagues' performance. List good business reasons why the behavior must end.

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Having the Talk

When you sit down with employees to discuss attitude problems, try to determine whether they have a reason for their behavior. Is it a grudge against you or against the company in general? If you can't get to the root of the problem, don't think you can't resolve it.

Describe the behaviors you won't tolerate, and tell him or her firmly that those behaviors must stop. Too often, managers fail in their counseling efforts because they skip this (sometimes uncomfortable) step. Also, make sure he or she understands why the behavior must end. Explain how it's causing a problem.

Also, follow up with a description of the preferred behavior, such as cooperation, helpfulness and courteousness. Don't feel bad about being direct. Every manager has the right to demand that employees behave in a courteous and cooperative manner.

Finally, give the employee the opportunity to speak. The person may be unaware of what he or she is doing or not realize how it impedes other people's work. It may also turn out that the attitude problem is a symptom of a more serious problem that needs referral to the employee assistance program.

Properly done, the review process can tell you much more than whether or not to give an employee a raise, a promotion or a termination.

In The Manager's Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews, you'll learn:
    book cover
  • 8 ways to make sure the performance standards you establish are realistic, plus 5 ways to determine whether they are clear and relevant
  • 8 paths to effective logging of employee performance, and the 12 check-boxes every performance log must include
  • 3 types of employee rating scales, from simplest to most complex
  • 5 evaluation tools that help rehabilitate problem employees
  • 6-point checklist to prepare for the review session, plus 10 tips to conduct more effective reviews
  • 6 performance review missteps (and how to avoid committing them), 5 conversation-stoppers … and 1 total no-no
  • The pros (4) and cons (3) of “360-degree” evaluations

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