Helpful Advice for Managing a High-Performing Employee With a Bad Attitude

As a manager, you have to deal with all types of employees. From underperformers who are fun to be around to high-performing employees with a bad attitude.

It’s easy enough to replace a low-performing, bad attitude employee with someone else. You’re not likely to miss them at all.

But what will you do if you’re managing a high-performing employee with a bad attitude? Will you move on or look for a way to make things work?

The biggest mistake you can make is ignoring the employee with hopes that everything works out. Not only does this feed into the person’s bad attitude, but it can also drive away other employees. According to Sodexo, some specific types of negative-workplace behavior includes, but is not limited to:

  • Rudely expressing opinions.
  • Not owning up to mistakes and/or passing the blame on their coworkers.
  • Complaining frequently about workload.
  • Treating feedback as a personal attack and getting defensive.
  • Taking credit or stealing another colleagues’ idea.
  • Spreading rumors about fellow staff.
  • Being close-minded and resistant to change, especially when it could make for a more positive environment overall.
  • Being too prideful and refusing to find areas to improve or grow.
  • Purposefully violating the company’s code of conduct.

You get the point. This is a serious issue that you must learn to deal with appropriately before it permeates the entirety of the workplace with its toxicity.

The Best Approach

There’s no one size fits all approach to managing a high-performing employee with a bad attitude, but there are some steps anyone in this position can take.

1. Provide Specific Feedback

It’s one thing to tell an employee they have a bad attitude, but another thing entirely to do so in a professional manner.

This conversation should be approached delicately, as you don’t want to put the person off. However, since it’s an issue that needs to be resolved, you need to be straightforward. And that means providing specific feedback.

This can include but is not limited to:

  • Examples of their bad attitude.
  • Providing actionable advice.
  • Telling them what they’re doing right, too.

If you simply say “you have a bad attitude,” it won’t get you very far. It may even make the person act out more.

But when you have an open and honest discussion about this, complete with specific feedback, it’s much more likely that you’ll make progress.

Tip: this is also a good time to talk with the employee about your company’s policies, such as the disciplinary policy for inappropriate behavior. Encourage them to review their employee handbook.

2. Don’t Focus Solely on Results

Remember, you’re dealing with a high-performing employee with a bad attitude. For this reason, you may be more likely to cut them slack.

While it’s okay to focus some of your attention on results—as that’s something beneficial the employee brings to the table—it can’t be your sole concern.

You have to treat their performance and attitude separately. If you let their performance overshadow their poor attitude, it’ll only result in more toxicity in the workplace.

This goes along with point No. 1. As you provide actionable feedback, don’t forget to talk about what they’re doing right. This goes a long way in showing them that you value them, but are also concerned about their attitude and approach to the workplace.

3. Track Their Progress

Don’t assume that your employee will take your words to heart and make an immediate change. Even if they’re devoted to making changes for the better, it doesn’t mean it’ll happen overnight.

Pay close attention to their progress, such as by scheduling regular meetings. This allows you to talk about the good, the bad, and what comes next.

Tip: if you’re working in a remote environment, there are still things you can do to display your leadership skills and encourage your employees.

4. Listen to Other Employees

This is often difficult, as you don’t want to take sides.

For instance, if a group of employees comes to you and says they’re having an issue with another employee’s bad attitude, it can put pressure on you to make a key decision on the spot.

While you want to hear everyone out, don’t do anything until you collect as much information as possible. This allows you to think through each approach, thus making the decision that’s best for all parties involved.

Tip: there’s nothing wrong with using an anonymous survey to ask for employee feedback. For example, you could ask questions such as “what are your thoughts on the work environment” and “is there anything you would change about your department?”

Final Thoughts

A toxic work environment can take a physical and emotional toll on employees. So, if you have someone in your office with a bad attitude, it’s time to take action.

With the right approach, you can help this person improve their attitude while making the workplace healthier and more enjoyable for everyone else.

If you’re successful in helping your high-performing employee with a bad attitude transition into a team player, it’ll benefit everyone in the long run.

Jori Hamilton