No – your Team Member does not have an attitude problem

It’s tempting to blame performance issues on attitude – but there is no such thing as an attitude problem.

When you’re responsible for leading and managing a group of Frontline staff, there are three things that you want:

  • Their Productivity
  • Their Quality
  • Their Attitude

We call this “P,Q & A” and when your Frontline is delivering on all three of these dimensions life is good.

Let’s focus on the “A” or Attitude dimension for this article.

Does your Staff have an attitude problem?

It’s quite normal to hear a Team Leader or Manager say “My Staff has an attitude problem.”

But is this true?

There’s no such thing as an ‘attitude problem’ because there are so many different attitudes at play in any job role.

If in the old days, a  Manager came into my office and said they had a staff with an attitude problem, I’d ask them to tell me specifically which attitude was the problem.

If they didn’t know which attitude, I’d suggest that they consider that – and come back later for another chat.

Was I being overly harsh?  I don’t think so.

Every job requires a certain set of attitudes to succeed.

As the boss, it’s our job to know the attitude requirements for any job role we manage.

What are some common Frontline attitudes?

Here are some common attitudes for the Frontline.  Of course be sure to formalize a definition for each one and add or subtract the ones that are relevant for you –

  • Adaptability and Flexibility
  • Attentiveness
  • Positive Attitude
  • Consistency
  • Confidence
  • Control
  • Goal-orientation
  • Teamwork

Nobody is a superstar at every attitude.

Some attitudes were inculcated in us through how we were raised.

Some we learned from trusted teachers and mentors.

Others were learned from role models, siblings and friends we admire.

Attitudes evolve and develop over time and with the right guidance.

Haven’t you ever looked back at your own career and sighed at how you lacked a particular attitude at some point – and how that impacted your work?

When helping someone develop an attitude the goal is that they end up making a conscious choice to ‘adopt’ the attitude.

To begin to believe in it for their own personal success.

Know what levels of attitude you need

When I conduct interviews, I find that some Candidates aren’t aware of some common workplace attitudes.

This is not meant to be judgemental.  It has so much to do with their own personal exposure.

I have to decide, in advance, which attitudes I’m willing to cultivate over time versus which attitudes I require from the get-go.

So before the interview, I list out the attitudes required for success in the job role and give a ‘minimum rating level’ for that attitude at hiring.

As an example, on a scale of 1 to 6 (with 6 being highest), my attitude criteria for hiring might be:

  • Adaptability and Flexibility – I look for a (5) at hiring
  • Attentiveness – I look for a (4) at hiring
  • Positive Attitude – I look for a (4) at hiring
  • Consistency – I look for a (3) at hiring
  • Confidence – I look for a (2) at hiring

Of course as time goes by, I expect to see higher levels of performance in the selected attitudes.

And that means I’ll need to provide regular discussion, coaching and feedback.

It’s not fair to leave people to figure it out on their own.

It’s important that Team Leaders and Manages have conversations about attitude with their staff

Managers don’t have enough conversations about ‘attitude’ with their staff.

It could be that they –

  • Don’t know the attitudes expected for the job role they manage
  • Aren’t sure it’s ok to talk about attitude(s)
  • May not know that the best way to build attitude in someone is to positively influence the individual

One litmus test comes up at the annual or bi-annual Performance Review exercise.

In most organizations, a few different Attitudes are included in the Performance Review with scoring such as ‘Exceeded Expectations” and “Met Expectations”.

If the staff undergoing the Performance Review has strong disagreements or concerns about the attitudinal ratings by their  Manager or the Manager is grasping at straws to justify their attitudinal ratings – there’s a problem.

Attitude ‘scores’ at performance reviews should never be a surprise to anyone.

In closing

The next time you hear someone say, my staff has an attitude problem – feel free to politely correct them and ask “which attitude are you referring to?”.

Life at Work
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