As HR professionals, we are often approached by managers who are trying to manage an employee with “an attitude problem”.

Even for experienced and capable managers, an attitude problem is really difficult to manage. In fact, the more capable the manager, the harder the issue, because a good manager knows that you have to be able to quantify a problem to manage it, and a bad attitude is mostly intangible.

We’ve seen the full extreme of approaches; from insidious personal attacks, to ignoring the issue and hoping it will go away (it never does). We’ve also seen the middle ground; fruitless arguments that go something like this; Employer: “you need to change your attitude!” Employee: “what the hell does that mean?”

This prompts two questions; what exactly is an attitude problem and how can it be managed?

Often, when teased out, an attitude problem generally presents as something like being short with colleagues or customers (but not actually saying anything wrong), eye-rolling, being snappy or huffy, being unhelpful, back-stabbing, gossiping, negativity, lack of effort, slacking off, an entitlement mentality – the list goes on… The trouble is, when you try to address these behaviours head on, they seem petty, even though they have a massive impact in the workplace.

That conversation starts something like this: Employer “Please don’t roll your eyes and sigh loudly in meetings, it sends the wrong message.” Employee “You’re having a go at me for rolling my eyes and breathing? – seriously?” The conversation generally goes down-hill from there.

What’s missing here is the ability to quantify the problem in a clear, non-emotional and non-personal way. This is where a strong company culture is imperative. When the behaviour expected of your employees is an established, clear expectation – set out in a corporate values statement, suddenly it becomes quantifiable, and applicable to your whole organisation in all its dealings.

Here’s an example;

Company Value:  Respect


  • Respect each other
  • Respect our customers
  • Respect yourself
  • Listen to and Respect the opinion of others
  • Respect the rules
  • Respect the environment….

The list goes on, but you get the gist.

How this works is that by clearly communicating that the value of “respect” is a performance expectation and clarifying this by translating “respect” into specific behavioural expectations, you now have a tool to manage otherwise intransient behaviours.

The values you choose for your organisation to align to, and the types of behaviours these values encourage, are defined and engender the culture of your business. The advantages of this are huge – you set standards of service, quality, team-work, management, professionalism, and decision making that are manageable and enforceable –  so you can build a team with the “attitude” you need.

If you would like more information on how define your own Corporate Values, manage those attitude problems and drive a positive culture in your business, contact us. One of our highly skilled HR Guru’s can help.

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