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How Do You Handle a Difficult Employee with a Bad Attitude?

Sep 27, 2013

Here are five steps to deal with employees before the situation gets out of control.

By Gerald E. Higginbotham, Ph. D, PAS
Ruminant Business Manager- Western States, Micronutrients

Higginbotham 5 12   CopyUnfortunately, even when dairy managers try to hire the best team, there is still the chance they will have a difficult employee or two. A difficult employee could do some of the following:

- Does the absolute minimum work expected
- Criticizes the farm employment polices
- Gossiping
- Backstabbing a fellow employee
- Has a bad attitude

With a difficult employee, there is usually no enthusiasm or drive to do his or her job at an adequate performance level. An employee’s bad attitude can affect the morale of co-workers of those who work hard and follow the rules. It can also test the dairy manager’s ability as a manager as your employees will look toward the manger to handle the situation. If not addressed, other employees will think that bad performance is acceptable.

No one likes to have to deal with these types of problem employees, but when you have an employee who is disruptive or has a bad attitude, you need to deal with it soon as possible.

The following are steps that managers may consider to deal with employees who may have a bad attitude1.

A. Make a distinction between bad attitudes and bad behaviors. Attitudes are, after all, subjective; what seems like an attitude problem to one person may not seem all that bad to another. Since it is difficult to document an attitude, documenting instances of employee behaviors is the key to correcting them. Determine how an employee’s bad attitude is contributing to bad behaviors that are easy to describe.

B. Document instances of the employee’s bad behavior. Include dates, times, any other employees who were present/involved, and the details of the incident. For example, if an employee refuses to work on an assigned project, documentation should include the date and time the refusal happened, and a description of what the employee said.

C. Meet with the employee to discuss documented incidences of bad behavior. You may want to include an uninvolved third party in the meeting to help calm a difficult situation, while also protecting the employer from claims of discrimination or harassment by the employee with the attitude problem.

D. Discuss the documented incidents of bad behavior with the employee impartially. Assume that the employee wants to improve and change. Discuss how the behaviors affected the overall dairy’s organization most notably other employees. Ask the employee what they would like to do to remedy the situation.

E. Develop a plan to help the employee to change his behavior. Give the employee a specific amount of time to implement the steps of the plan, and set a time to reassess the situation after the time period is up. Let the employee know what the outcome will be if the steps for the plan are not enacted, and no change is observed.

Just like everything in life, when you ignore a small problem it only gets bigger. The same holds true when managing employees with bad attitudes--things only get worse. Don’t wait until the situation gets out of control. Deal with it now and aggressively.

1Adapted from Cornett, J. E. How to handle an employee with a bad attitude toward management. 

Dr. Gerald Higginbotham is Ruminant Business Manager in California for Micronutrients, a Division of Heritage Technologies, LLC. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona. Dr. Higginbotham is a member of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and is a diplomat of the American College of Animal Sciences. Contact him at 559-907-8013 orgerald.higginbotham@micro.net. 

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