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Is it Just a Bad Day or is it Everyday?

Everybody has the occasional bad day at work. What often starts as a problem or irritant outside the office can get carried over to work. Or what looks like a promising day turns sour because of one or more work related issues.But what about the employee who just seems to be in a bad mood or negative frame of mind most or all of the time? What’s their excuse?

Employees who come to work on a frequent basis in a bad mood or with a negative outlook have an impact on the organization in a number of ways, not the least of which is the way they affect co-workers or bosses. These employees are often referred to as having a bad attitude. An employee with a truly bad attitude can create unnecessary tension and “noise” within a work unit to the extent that productivity is reduced.

Be careful though in characterizing an employee as having a bad attitude. It’s important to focus on the behavior of the employee. A person with a bad attitude tends to respond negatively to many things within the workplace. This response is the behavior that results from having what many call a bad attitude and is what needs to be focused on when coaching the employee.

Focus on the behaviors exhibited by the employee rather than simply talking about a bad attitude. Employees need to understand how their specific behaviors affect those around them and the organization in general.

Telling an employee that he or she has a bad attitude likely won’t resonate with them. In fact, because they are generally negative anyway they will take it as unfair criticism without basis. That’s why it is even more important to pinpoint their behaviors and how they are affecting the team.

On performance reviews, this can be especially important. For the various competencies the employee is being measured against, point out the behaviors that support the lower ratings that are likely to be found on the review. Because an employee who is intent on being a negative influence may well be “managed out” of the organization, being as specific as possible on reviews and other ongoing feedback is critical.

The importance of documenting the behaviors that provide evidence of the bad attitude can’t be overstated. Let’s face it, if an employee brings an attitude to work that leads to negative responses to many situations, there is a good chance that he or she will create issues if and when they are terminated. Documentation of behaviors help cover a managers backside and may even help the employee recognize that a behavioral change is in order.

Keep attitude and behavior separated and focus on changing behavior. While you may not see the results you expect, you will be doing what is necessary to move the employee forward or out.