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How to Address Someone's Bad Attitude at Work

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One negative employee can have a tremendous affect on departmental morale and motivation. While it’s not unusual for employees to make negative remarks occasionally, a persistently bad attitude is a cause for concern. Addressing the issue promptly helps ensure that the problem employee’s attitude doesn’t affect other members of your staff.

Discuss Concerns

Meet with the employee to discuss her behavior, mentioning instances of her making negative comments or behaving in a rude or unprofessional way. The website suggests you avoid making comments about the employee’s personality and instead rely on documented facts. Ask her to discuss the concerns that led to the negative comments. If she is unable to provide anything other than vague complaints, ask her to provide specific instances in which she felt that you or the company did not provide adequate support for her role. This type of conversation is beneficial for everyone if you discover a problem that can be easily corrected.

State Expectations

Clearly state your expectations for the employee’s behavior in the future, and let her know that you expect to see improvement in the next several weeks. Explain that the entire department is affected by negative comments or a bad or uncooperative attitude. It might be helpful to suggest that the employee carefully consider the impact of her comments before speaking if she’s gotten into the habit of making negative comments. Similarly, advise her to review and edit email before sending it to ensure that the tone isn’t negative or overly critical.

Empower the Employee

Negativity can occur if employees believe they have no control over situations or their work. If you allow the employee to make small decisions and contribute suggestions for improvements, she might have a stronger sense of engagement and ownership of her work. Engaged employees often are more motivated and less likely to make critical remarks. The Business Management Daily website notes that you can help an employee with a bad attitude by countering negative statements with positive ones.

Take Action

If the employee’s attitude doesn’t improve after your discussion, it’s time to take action. Continuation of the behavior might occur if the employee needs help to change an ingrained behavioral pattern. Talk to your human resources department and ask if the company can send the employee to anger management counseling, an interpersonal skills workshop or other program that can help her channel her frustrations in a more appropriate way. In some cases, the employee’s attitude won’t improve no matter what solutions you propose. Document the steps you take, and if the employee fails to improve despite warnings, you might have no other choice but to terminate her.


Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.

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