Can one bad attitude destroy your team?

Can one bad attitude destroy your team?



Employees with bad attitudes can be tough to deal with.

These employees bring down office morale, and can do some real damage to the goals and bottom-line of your team or organization.

You know these employees are not happy in some regard. They are the types of people who:

  • Habitually complain about co-workers and customers
  • Spread gossip and rumors about co-workers that undermine teamwork
  • Excessively complain about their work or workload
  • Criticize their boss or the organization they work for
  • Seldom take responsibility for their own mistakes


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To effectively deal with a negative employee, you need a more effective strategy than hoping your unhappy employee will just quit.

Unfortunately, your most negative employee tends to stick with you for life. Even though they don’t like you, the company, and possibly life, they are not leaving.

Why, you ask?

These employees with bad attitudes are not leaving for two reasons.

First, they have very few options. Anyone who has ever worked with them certainly won’t be hiring them away from you.

Second, the negative employee has a negative vision, and truly believes that joining a new team or organization would be even worse than their current situation.


Every manager at one point in their career has had to lead a negative employee. Maybe you have a negative employee on your team right now. If you do, this blog and the following 6 tips are here for you to learn how to handle employees with bad attitudes.





Focus on the behaviors that are undermining the individual and the team, not the individual’s attitude

Attitude describes a specific part of someone’s personality, and people will defend their personality to their death.

An example of focusing on the behavior and not the attitude could sound like this: “Lily, when we talked about implementing the new software at our team meeting yesterday, you said that this new software would be a pain for our team and most likely wouldn’t work correctly.” Or, “Yesterday in our meeting, you blamed the product delivery department for not being able to correctly read your email.”


Ask questions, don’t tell

In the examples above, you could ask the following question: “By blaming the software or the product delivery department rather than focusing on what you could do to solve the problem, I want to ask, do you see that as a problem?”

There’s a good chance that the employee doesn’t see their negative comments as a problem, and they won’t want to be told their negative comments are a problem.

Asking rather than telling gives you the best opportunity to both understand their perspective, and lead them to discover for themselves why their attitude and resulting behaviors are a problem.


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Be specific

Let the individual know what specific behaviors you expect in the future.

Let the employee know that from this point forward, if you can’t say something positive, proactive or constructive about other team members or departments we work with, don’t say anything at all.


Increase their workload

Employees who have time to complain and spread their ill will and bad attitude don’t have enough work to do.

Increase their workload and hold them accountable for the expected results.

If they continue to gossip and complain, the issue that needs to be dealt with is most likely a lack of accountability for the desired results rather than the bad attitude.

Recognize success.

When the individual stops making negative comments or gossiping about others, it is important to recognize the new behaviors that are helping rather than hindering the individual or the team’s success.


Acknowledge defeat

Some employees need a therapist and as their manager, you can’t effectively change their behaviors.

When you have tried several times to change the negative employees behavior and it has not worked, here’s our advice: Share them with your best competitor and screw up their strategic plan instead of your own.

If you hire right, the employee you hire to replace the Debbie Downer will be a positive addition for improved office moral and will bring your team renewed energy and great results. As Richard Branson said, “You don’t train attitudes, you have to hire them.”

So, there you have it: 6 tips on how to handle employees with bad attitudes. If the first five fail, put tip six into action.


About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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