How to Deal with Negative Attitudes in the Workplace

March 28, 2022

10 Tips on Dealing with Workplace Negative Attitudes

Is there an attitude problem at your workplace? 

A group of productive employees working towards a common goal is the foundation of a successful business. Even just one employee with a negative attitude is a risk. A poor attitude in the workplace is contagious. The domino effect is real, and that negative attitude can knock down the positive vibe in your workplace, one employee after the other. 

On the flip side, the domino effect works with positive attitudes too. This article looks at how to change attitudes in the workplace, so those dominoes fall the right side up.

Why is Attitude Important in the Workplace?

If you want to know how to improve employee attitude in your workplace, you need to understand what an attitude is. 

Attitude is a way of thinking or feeling about something. It consists of mindset, point of view, experiences, and beliefs. There are four main types of attitudes you could be dealing with in your workplace. These are: 

Positive – characterised by confidence, determination, and sincerity

Negative – demonstrates anger, doubt, and frustration

Neutral – feel disconnected and is complacent

Sikken – persistent negativity and aggressiveness 

The good news is that attitudes are not permanent. 

Employee behaviour and attitudes can change, grow, and thrive under good leadership and positive workplace culture. Winston Churchill once said, “attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference.” This is very true for the workplace. Our attitude determines how we react to situations, overcome challenges, and interact with others. 

Attitude affects behaviour. 

Behaviour impacts performance. 

Performance drives productivity. 
Positive employee behaviour and attitude are essential to workplace happiness and the company’s success. To understand how to change attitudes in the workplace, you first need to know what you’re looking for.

The Different Types of Bad Attitudes in the Workplace

Maybe you can already label the behaviour of an employee who demonstrates a negative attitude in your workplace? You can describe their negative behaviour and see its impact on your business. Or they may be more subtle. Here is a list of bad attitudes in the workplace:

  • Speaking badly about colleagues or spreading rumours
  • Lying and taking credit for the work of others
  • Verbal harassment towards colleagues
  • Exaggerating colleagues’ mistakes
  • Not following guidelines and expectations as outlined in the workplace
  • Not owning mistakes or accepting feedback 
  • Not being accountable for work, decisions, or consequences

10 Tips on Dealing with Employee Negative Attitude

If you want to know how to improve employee attitudes, look at our ten tips below. Essentially, this list is a performance improvement plan for bad attitudes. Our list moves from preventative to mitigative strategies, so you can apply the specific action you need at your workplace.

  1. Check-in with yourself regularly: As a leader, what attitude are you projecting towards your team members? Are you approachable? Do you identify and celebrate successes with your team or staff? Do you focus on the positives? A moment of reflection on your attitude is an excellent place to start when it comes to changing employee behaviour and attitude.
  1. Observe: Tune in to your employees – their body language, productivity, tone of voice, and their ability to adapt to change or approach a new challenge, so that you can get a sense of the attitudes within your team.
  1. Engage: Have weekly team catch-ups, regular performance reviews, and informal chats with your team to help strengthen relationships and create positive energy in your workplace.
  1. Prepare: Have documented policies within your organisation that outline standards, expectations, and consequences. These should be accessible for all staff. A prominently displayed mission statement is also a clear reminder of what you stand for.
  2. Listen first: You have two ears and one mouth for a reason! It’s best to listen twice as much as you talk. If you need to approach an employee who is demonstrating a poor attitude in the workplace, ask, then listen to any underlying factors that may be contributing to their frame of mind. These could include lack of sleep, stress, or family issues. Offer support in the form of less workload (if possible) or access to a counsellor.
  1. Be specific: If you get to this point and need to talk with an employee displaying a continually negative attitude, state the facts first. Have an example of the impacts of their attitude and behaviour already prepared to talk through with them. For example, say their gossiping causes tension in the workplace. Or, by not accepting feedback, they slow down the project’s progress. Focus on results and productivity. 
  1. Performance management: Prepare and agree upon a performance management plan, which allows the employee an opportunity to adjust their attitude and engage positively in the workplace. Include a list of S.M.A.R.T. goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound goals, as part of the performance improvement plan for a bad attitude. 
  1. Swift action: If you do not see any changes by this point, it’s time to take disciplinary action, so the attitude problem at your workplace doesn’t topple other employees via the domino effect. 
  1. Remove: If none of the above steps have worked, you will need to remove the employee with the negative attitude from employment at your workplace. 
  1. Moving forward: Open communication channels to cater to the different types of people in your workplace – open door policy, specific email address for complaints and concerns, regular team meetings, etc. – so that your workplace is safe, productive, and encourages positive employee behaviour and attitude.

Relationship Between Positive Employee Attitudes and Workplace Culture

Why is attitude important in the workplace? 

Positive leadership, comprehensive policies, transparent communication, a clear vision, and an inclusive environment contribute to positive workplace culture.   

Employee attitudes also have a strong influence on workplace culture. 

A positive workplace culture improves morale, encourages teamwork, increases productivity, and celebrates successes. A positive workplace culture increases job satisfaction and reduces stress.  

Ask yourself this: How much do you love your current place of employment? Do you need to deal with a poor attitude in the workplace? Is your workplace culture thriving or toppling?

Things to Consider When Handling an Employee with Bad Attitude

In conclusion, if you have an issue with employee attitude and behaviour in your workplace, use the tips above to guide you through the reconciliation process. If you want to know more about how to improve employee attitude, get in touch, and we’ll help you turn your workplace from scattered dominoes to the double-six of workplaces.

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About the author: Christopher Smith - CEO

Founder | Chief Happy Officer at Happy HR - Ensuring we have a happy platform, service mix and team of A grade people! View on Linkedin

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