What To Do With Employees Who Give You Attitude

09 May 2018 by Shweta Jhajharia

When your business and team start growing, you may find a ‘problem employee’ emerge. They are usually great at what they do, but their attitude causes some disruption and a reasonable amount of frustration in yourself and the team.

What can you do about it?

There’s a simple framework that helps you get into a slightly unusual way of thinking in business contexts. But if you master it, it can guide you to a faster and easier solution than trying to adjust your employee’s character or attitude.

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Before you either leap at firing the person or resign yourself to the fact that this is “just their attitude”, try thinking it through in the order I’ve given you.

Focus on your systems first, then consider how you might be able to adjust the skills involved. Remember, you don’t manage your team you manage your team’s activities – and when you do this effectively, you will see the change in attitude.

Often ‘bad’ attitude doesn’t come from a ‘bad’ character or bad person – often it is a lack of clear direction and passion for what they do. That means you need to set a better culture and introduce better systems.

So step up your leadership, step up your management and give your employees your best so they can give you their best.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi! this is Shweta.

What I want to talk about today is a very recent conversation that I had with one of our clients. And you could make out that the person is not very happy with one of the team members. The client’s frustration was pretty evident.

My Team Member Has An Attitude Problem

The comments I was hearing were things like:
“He’s got an attitude problem.”
“He always behaves like that.
“You know we’ve given him feedback but this is his character and I’m very frustrated.”
“I just don’t know how to go about it though he has been there with us for three years. But everything is falling on deaf ears.”

Now these statements might be familiar to you because of your own situation or from what you hear from other business owners and it actually is very common – this is nothing very unusual. But what I really want to talk about and share with you is a little unusual way of thinking in the business context. And what I mean by that is that when these situations arise rather than gravitating towards people’s character and attitude what is the right way to think through the problem. So you can actually identify relatively easier and faster solution to that problem and move the business forward.

The Framework for Managing Team Attitudes

Let me share with you a framework which I shared with the client and he found it very useful gave him a perspective. And obviously, now he has gone back to review certain things which hopefully will take care of the problem and streamline the overall business. So let’s focus on that, okay.

This is a very straightforward principle which I’ve actually taken from the book called “Principles” by Ray Dalio – a very powerful book. What the framework talks about is that you have set certain goals, right? And obviously you want to have the outcomes at the right level or you can call it results.

Now, what’s in between these two things is your business machine. This is your business machine. Now, your business machine has got two components. One component is People. The other one is Systems. These are structures with which people are working, hopefully.

And then within people there are two broad things. And again it’s just to understand the logic the framework. So within people, you have Skills and then their Attitudes, you know their character, their habits. That’s what we’re talking about here.

The First Thing to Focus On: Systems

Now, as I said what people do when there is a problem with a team member is that they straight away go here, to Attitudes. They start talking about the character and the habits of the person. What you need to understand is that it’s very, very, very difficult to change habits, to change characters. It’s very tricky to transform people because these are old habits. It doesn’t work like that. So rather than getting frustrated and trying things which are going to take a long time, ideally what one needs to do is look at the cause of actions in the right order.

The first thing that you as a business owner need to focus on whenever there’s a problem with a person or the performance is to look at Systems. This should be number one. Say to yourself, “What structural change can I make in the business that will take care of this problem?” You’ll be surprised to find that once you start looking at things from that perspective, you do come up with some really simple tweaks and simple structures or system integrations which actually streamline the business. So, that should be the first point of call.

The Second Thing: Skills

Then if you feel the Systems are fine then the second place to look at is the Skills level. It could be that yes we have systems but, actually, the person is not properly skilled or skilled enough to actually deliver the work or the results that you’re after. So look at the training and look at the Skills. This is a relatively easily transferable or a consultable thing to do.

And THEN if the Team Member’s Problem Persists…

So then what happens when you believe that yes, there is a system, and there is proper support and training provided to the team member and still the problem is persisting?

Then it is time to go deeper into it. But in most of the cases that I’ve seen is that if the System and Skills are in place and the problem still persists, this does mean the person’s attitude is not right, and then you might have to let go of this person so they can find the right job for themselves and you can find the right talent for your business.

So with this framework whenever you are having issues with your team person rather than going straight to the Attitude and getting frustrated and getting into personal comments, try to look at things objectively. Focus on Systems first, then look at the Skill levels of the person and what training or support that they need, and only then take a decision as to whether this person needs to stay or leave the business.

I hope you find that useful and in case you need help from someone who understands what she or he is talking about and can help you with your systems and structures and the right organization structure. Please feel free to reach out. Sometimes an outside perspective can really make a huge difference in the business.


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Shweta Jhajharia

Shweta Jhajharia is one of the leading authorities on Business Value Building and the creator of the unique 6M Model. Shweta is widely respected as an impactful, intelligent and results orientated professional who helps business leaders unleash their potential to reach meaningful, higher objectives. This realisation of potential and maximisation... Read more