Stop Talking About Attitude; Talk About Behavior

Mike Harden | | Resolving Conflict, Resolving Employee Problems

I don’t like your attitude. You’ve got an attitude problem. You need an attitude adjustment. Stop! Your people’s attitudes are of no business of yours. Their attitude – who cares? Attitude is not a tangible item; it’s internal feelings and thoughts. When we say, “This person has a bad attitude,” that’s not what we mean at all. “Attitude” is a word we use for the demonstrated behaviors that we see. It’s helpful to kick that word right out of your workplace vocabulary.

Let me illustrate with an example. Joe comes in to work late three times a week. He mouths off to employees; he’s insubordinate. That’s not a bad attitude; It’s a set of three inappropriate or unfavorable behaviors. You can talk about behaviors; you can address them; you can tell Joe that he needs to change his behavior. Mention “attitude” and he will push back.

Focus On Behavior

As a leader, it is important to understand that you can’t talk to people about their attitudes; you have to discuss specific actions. “You come in late to work three times a week; you have to stop that behavior. We can talk about why you’re coming in to work late, but the bottom line is that you are doing something that is not good for the organization, or for yourself. We need to work on that.

Nebulous goes to concrete real fast when you talk in terms of actions and behaviors. It also resonates more with people. Rather than becoming instantly defensive – because “attitude” carries a deeply personal connotation – people are more receptive to what you’re saying. It doesn’t mean that they like what you’re saying, and they don’t have to. Their attitude is completely their own. Their behaviors, though – affect your organization, and others within it.

Mike Harden

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC’s premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Find Mike on Google+

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