How to Tell an Employee They Need to Improve Their Attitude

How to Tell an Employee They Need to Improve Their Attitude

As an employer, how do you tell an employee they need to improve their attitude?

There are times when you have very hardworking and intelligent employees adding value to the organization.

They might be very good at their job and have no problem with their performance level.

However, these employees might have an attitude problem. 

This attitude problem might have to do with their character or behavior as it relates to moral values.

Such attitude problems can cause conflicts in the workplace and also affect the culture of the organization.

If not quickly kept in check, this attitude problem can get so bad that it can even bring down the entire company.

The attitude of employees can be described not just in their behavior or character in the workplace but also in their attitude towards work.

Having employees with the right attitude towards work can really make the tiny difference between success and failure for a business establishment.

This kind of employee is conscientious, and usually has the right approach towards their work.

It can also increase their productivity and help to generate more revenue for the organization.

Telling employees they need to improve though is not an easy conversation to have. 

If not done properly, the goal of the discussion might be defeated and you might end up making the matter worse.

That is why you need to learn the right way to have such a conversation with your employees and get the improvements that are expected.

How to Tell an Employee They Need to Improve – What Does Employee Attitude Mean?

Attitude generally refers to the beliefs, thinking, and emotions that guide a person’s behaviors toward something.

Employees’ attitude refers to their psychological state of mind, which in turn directs the way they behave or act in certain situations or generally.

Sometimes, an employee’s attitude might be a result of the way they were brought up or the environment they grew up in.

This can either make them have positive and praiseworthy behaviors or negative traits.

Another factor that might influence an employee’s attitude is the experiences of that employee. 

This has also been proven to shape the mindset of employees and affect how they behave.

When it comes to employees’ attitudes, you can either get a positive attitude from employees or a negative one.

Employees with positive attitudes are generally more engaged and dedicated to their roles and responsibilities in their workplace.

That is why this has a direct impact or relationship with the performance and efficiency of employees.

These types of employees are what every business owner is looking for, as they prove invaluable to the organization.

On the other hand, the negative attitude of employees is revealed in the way they talk, act or behave in the workplace.

Employees who have a negative attitude are usually very unproductive regardless of their talents or skills. 

Additionally, these employees are a constant headache to employers as it can also affect their relationships with others. 

Just like positive attitudes, a negative attitude can be very deeply entrenched and persistent.

But the good news is that it is possible to change it with the right methods and applications.

Let us now look at some of the traits that constitute a poor attitude from employees and the negative effects of this.

How to Tell an Employee They Need to Improve – Types of Negative Employee Attitude

A poor attitude from employees is actually not difficult to identify and spot. 

This is because a negative employee attitude usually goes against moral values and ethics.

Employees who display negative traits are also easy to point to because they are not the best individuals to forge a relationship within the workplace.

Their attitude is repulsive and it is hard having a good relationship with them. 

Find below some negative traits that constitute a poor attitude from employees which you need to take note of.

Note that we will be considering both traits of a poor attitude towards work and poor moral values and ethics.

A Lackadaisical Approach Towards Assigned Duties/Tasks 

One trait that goes down as a poor attitude towards work from employees is being careless with assigned duties.

An employee with this attitude might not take his/her work seriously.

A careless attitude towards work might show in the speed of carrying out the duties, time spends on work, level of devotion, and even the quality of input.

For example, you might have on your team an employee who undeniably possesses the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience.

But even at that, the level of work input from that employee might be unsatisfactory.

At that point, it shows that the problem is not if they are capable but rather their willingness to do what is required.

And that is a signal for poor employee attitude relating to work.


While employee laziness can rightly come under a careless approach towards work, it deserves to stand alone.

This is because laziness on its own is a serious employee attitude problem and can be shown in a variety of behaviors.

A lazy employee might show up for work quite alright, but might be slow in carrying out their assigned duties.

They might avoid responsibilities by giving flimsy excuses.

Laziness might also make an employee rush a task that deserves careful and close attention.

And this might make them make mistakes and errors that are very avoidable if they weren’t so lazy.

Those kinds of employees are a burden to your organization and it’s a poor attitude that you need to tell them to improve. 

Consistent Late coming

Punctuality is a very desirable quality of good employees and one that signifies excellent work ethics.

When an employee is regularly punctual, it serves as a sign of commitment, and discipline on their part.

And it is those kinds of employees that you as a business owner would love to assign more responsibilities because they are also reliable.

However, when you have employees who are fond of consistently coming late to work, they are difficult to put up with.

Notice that this late coming is not for isolated unavoidable circumstances, but rather a consistent one.

You must have even brought this attitude to the attention of that employee, and tell them practical suggestions on how they can improve, but all efforts prove abortive.

When this is the case, it shows the employee is not making any conscious effort to make changes, and might not even see reasons to believe it’s a bad thing.

Such an employee has an attitude problem which you need to tell him/her to improve on. 


Another negative trait that can be tagged as a poor employee attitude that needs improvement is discrimination at work.

Sometimes, a senior employee who has been placed in a position of oversight, supervision, and management might be the culprit. 

An employee might show discrimination by treating some individuals better than others.

It might be discrimination based on employees’ age, culture, social status, gender, qualifications e.t.c.

As an experienced professional, you understand that giving all employees an equal playing ground is necessary for building a united and healthy work environment.

Therefore, an employee who is fond of showing favoritism or discrimination in nature threatens your work culture.

And having such an employee around would make the unity of employees hard to achieve.

Hence, when you notice this attitude, it is one you need to address quickly and let the employee see the need to improve.


You thought bullying ended in high school and college right?

Well, we expected it to end there also.

Unfortunately, there are several cases of bullying happening in the workplace.

Some employees might feel that because of certain privileges or opportunities they have, they are better or more important than others.

These employees might then resort to bullying those who might be less privileged or do not seem to measure up.

As a manager, you need to be very observant of signs that show that an employee is being a bully.

Many times, this is revealed in the way they talk to their colleagues or how they insist on having their ways all the time.

They might also be forceful or tend to be domineering and prefer to keep items or benefits meant for everyone to themselves only.

This is also a signal of poor attitude from employees and they should be cautioned.


A dishonest employee also spells a bad market for your business.

Employees who lie or engage in other dishonest practices can put your organization at risk of losing its reputation. 

It can also affect the attitude and job satisfaction of other employees when there is a dishonest employee among them.

The dishonesty can easily translate over to their treatment of customers also and put you in a difficult position.

If care is not taken, such an employee can get involved in criminal activities which can put them and even you in trouble.

Because of this, you should take note of signs of lying and dishonesty in employees and be sure to have a discussion of improvement with them.


Being rude is also another attitude problem that an employee can have.

Rudeness can be displayed in the way an employee talks to people in management positions or their colleagues.

A rude employee might talk back when a superior is speaking, scream at the manager or even display disrespectful body language.

Rudeness on the part of employees can likewise degenerate into insulting speech when conversing with colleagues or supervisors.

This attitude cannot be left to fester in the workplace, and it’s one you should help a guilty employee improve on. 

Taking Credit for Other People’s Work

You can categorize this attitude problem as another sign of dishonesty.

Some employees might be underrating the contributions of other co-workers and receiving praise for themselves.

They might take the credit for the work done by a colleague or a team effort.

It is of interest to them that they always impress the employer, that they would go to any length to market themselves to the detriment of others.

This attitude can make teamwork difficult and also cause disunity in the workplace, and it’s one employees would need to work on and improve.

Spreading Rumours

Like a wildfire, rumors can spread rapidly and aggressively in an office environment.

You might find that you have an employee who derives pleasure in talking about another’s private life among his peers.

Some of these stories might be true and others could be totally exaggerated.

Whichever the case, spreading rumors or discussing other employees’ private life at work can have a negative impact both on the victims and the office as a whole.

This can damage the relationship between employees and even rub the employee who is spoken ill of much pain and hurt.

Therefore, this will also go down as a terrible attitude and employee can display.

Arrogance; Failure to Accept Corrections or mistakes

Another area in which an employee might portray a poor attitude at work is by being proud and arrogant. 

This arrogance is mostly expressed in the way they react to corrections and criticism.

A humble employee understands that corrections and criticism are necessary for growth.

On the other hand, the arrogant ones do not want to hear anything about corrections, be it from their superiors or colleagues.

Their reaction is usually one of opposition and defense instead of calm acceptance and understanding.

In addition to that, they also fail to own up to the mistakes they make. 

Those employees would rather prefer to blame others for their mistakes instead of admitting them openly.

When one of your employees has this trait in them, it’s not a good sign, but rather a bad attitude that needs to be improved upon.

Overly Introverted

It is understandable that some employees are introverts by nature and might not be too free with others.

However, there are times when this might be at the extreme and the ability of the employee to interact with colleagues suffers.

Having time for social activities and bonding with co-workers is essential for good relationships in the workplace.

Therefore, if an employee is being overly Introverted, you can have a conversation with the employee on how to improve and the need for that.

Negative Effects of Failure to Improve Poor Attitude from Employees

If you notice signs of a poor attitude from your employees and you do not take the needed steps to correct it, there are adverse effects that result from that.

Some of these negative effects are: 

Poor Performance and Productivity

To be sure, there is a direct link between employees’ attitude towards work and their performance and productivity.

Employees who are lazy or lack passion and commitment to work generally do not perform well.

And they are often not productive.

The same can also be said of employees who are habitual latecomers.

Or those who have made it a habit to stay away from work.

It is said that you cannot give what you do not have.

Therefore, when an employee has a bad attitude, it can adversely affect their level of performance and in effect, their productivity.

Strained Relationship Between Employees

An employee with a poor attitude is not a friend anybody would love to have. 

Such employees make people run away from them because of their behavior and unsavory attitude.

The disdainful attitude can affect the relationship between employees in the office environment.

The same can also be said of employees whose bad attitude involves spreading rumors or speaking ill of others.

This can upset the unity and togetherness that should exist in the workplace.

Loss of Customers 

Customers can’t just stand employees who have a bad attitude.

Dishonest employees, lack dedication, lazy or rude are always frowned at by your customers.

They do not put the customers at ease, and neither do they show the customers the respect they deserve and demand.

And if this is left unattended, it can lead to you losing customers to competitors.

Damaged Brand Reputation

Another negative effect of a bad attitude from an employee is the impact it has on the brand image and reputation.

A bad attitude is like a pungent smell, and regardless of how hard one tries to cover it up, it just finds a way to get out.

Customers who experience this are more likely going to spread the word about it, leaving your organization with a bad name.

Also, when the attitude problem results in criminal activities, it can damage the reputation of your organization.

Hence, it is important to address the attitude problem of employees and demand improvements as soon as possible.

It can Lead to Increased Employees’ Turnover

When you house employees with a bad attitude, customers are not the only people you’ll lose but you are bound to lose employees too.

This loss might be by the dissatisfied employees themselves resigning from their positions in your company.

It could also be other employees who are frustrated and tired of the attitude of those around them that are taking their leave.

Worse yet, if the bad attitude is becoming too dangerous for the business, your hands might be forced as the employer to terminate or fire the employee.

However it comes, letting a bad attitude stay around the workplace for long will only have a bad effect on your manpower.

And of course, there’s no point emphasizing the high costs associated with hiring new staff both in time, money, and other resources.

How to Tell an Employee They Need to Improve Their Attitude

Does the task of telling an employee they need to improve their attitude scare you?

If so, then you are not alone.

A lot of business owners struggle with this aspect of employee management, and for obvious reasons.

Sometimes, the employee with the attitude problem might be doing fine in other areas and you are afraid that such a conversation would jeopardize their contributions in other areas.

It might also be that you do not just know how to go about having this conversation, in terms of the setting, right mood, choice of words e.t.c.

There is the fear of what the reaction from the employee is going to be, and how they will take the conversation. 

Well, whatever your fears are, they are justified.

And that is why we want to provide you with the best tips and guidelines on the measures you can take to tell an employee they need to improve their attitude.

Identify the Attitude Problem

Before having a conversation on attitude with an employee, it is important that you clearly identify what the problem is.

You wouldn’t want to call an employee to discuss an attitude problem when you do not have sufficient facts to back it up.

It is important to have enough evidence that shows the employee really does have such a problem, to be effective in tackling it.

Do not Minimize the Importance of the Conversation

There is a tendency to want to minimize the Importance of having that conversation with an employee in your mind.

You might start to think maybe you are just being oversensitive or the employee’s bad attitude is not that serious.

However, when a behavior is not an occasional one but becoming a consistent attitude, it needs to be addressed.

And when the attitude of the employee is starting to affect others and the business, then it is clearly important.

You need to be fully convinced of this before having such a conversation, otherwise, it would not yield the expected results.

How to Tell an Employee They Need to Improve Their Attitude – Call for a Face-to-Face Meeting

It is more effective to have a conversation on employees’ attitudes in a relaxed face-to-face meeting setting.

This would allow you effectively pass the message and also see how they react to this.

It would not be proper to have such a discussion with an employee online or over a phone call. 

The issue is a serious one and should be treated as such. 

You also want to do this yourself and not delegate to a colleague of the employee in question.

This would ensure the message carries the weight it is expected to come with. 

First, Appreciate and Recognize Good Qualities

We understand that the tendency is there to want to dive right into the attitude problem and why it’s making you “mad”.

However, for conversations like this, it is important to have a soft landing.

A soft landing, in this case, would involve first commending the employee on areas they excel and are doing well.

If it’s in their performance, hard work, dressing e.t.c. no matter how little it is, recognize the fine works they do.

This would make the main point of the discussion coming next easier to accept.

Mention the Specific Problem; Don’t Be Vague

Few things are as worse as telling an employee: “you have an attitude problem”. 

This is the knowledge you have, and we do too.

But there is a better way of relating this to your employee.

Vaguely telling them they have an attitude problem without stating what it is will not be effective.

It might only make them more defensive or opposed to the point of the conversation.

They might also interpret it as you saying they are bad altogether and good for nothing.

Of course, this is not your point.

Hence, it is good to have documented what the real problem is before meeting with the employee.

That way, you can be direct and specific when presenting the problem before the employee.

Provide Evidence to Back Up your Claims 

Accusing an employee of a bad attitude which is a serious offense such as harassment or theft for example without evidence can really cause a scene.

People tend to flair up when they feel they have been unjustly accused of something they did not do.

Therefore, while discussing attitude problems with your employee, be sure to provide substantial evidence to back them up.

Mention instances when they’ve displayed the attitude in question.

And if possible, have a witness to back up your claims, especially for serious matters.

Address the Issue and not the Person

Sometimes, employees might be unreceptive to a discussion on attitude problems when you use the wrong choice of words.

Words that bother around an attack on the employee’s image or personality can make them angry and defensive.

Hence, you must choose your words carefully and make them understand that it is the attitude you are concerned about and not them as a person.

Let the Employee Know How their Attitude Affects Others and the Business

If the attitude in question is affecting the performance of other employees, it is good to let the employee know.

What if their attitude is affecting the customers in terms of service and satisfaction, or even causing loss of customers? Show them the metrics.

And if the attitude of the employee is adversely affecting business growth and profitability, they also should know this.

Employees would be more likely to make improvements on an attitude problem when they see how it directly relates to the adverse consequences.

Listen to them; Let them Speak

There is great power and insight in listening attentively to employees.

Once you’ve expressed your concerns and how you feel, allow the employee to also express themselves.

They might reveal what is the root cause of the attitude problem.

This might even be different from what you thought the reason was. 

Even if their response is defensive or borne out of anger, it helps to still let them speak, to know what to respond to.

How to Tell an Employee They Need to Improve Their Attitude – Manage your Emotions; Be Calm

When an employee who you are convinced has a bad attitude is being overly defensive or deflective, it might be a challenge to stay calm.

Knowing the danger their attitude poses to the business and some damages it might have caused might make you want to flare up.

However, it is important to keep your emotions in check if you are to realize the goal of the conversation. 

Try to speak to them calmly.

Re-emphasize your point so it sticks.

Do not let their response get you angry. 

Tell or Show them How to Improve

After stating the attitude problem, your employee will expect that you give them practical advice on how to improve. 

Some of these attitude problems are really not their fault.

And it might be a result of upbringing or emotional response to something.

Therefore, first, understand the root cause.

Then, you can also offer suggestions on what they can do to improve their attitude. 

You can as well give examples that they can follow in making these necessary changes. 

Check-In on Their Progress 

Be sure to inform the employee of the consequences of failing to Improve their attitude over time.

Also, be on the lookout to see if there are any improvements thereafter.

You might also need to meet with them regularly to discuss the progress they are making in this area.

If done properly, you should be getting the improvements in attitude in no distant time.

Conclusion on How to Tell an Employee They Need to Improve Their Attitude

An employee’s attitude towards work and work ethics are very integral to their personal development and what they bring to the organization.

Therefore, this is an area that you as an employer should always hold as very important.

If you notice an attitude problem in an employee, act on it quickly and have a conversation with the employee.

Tell them about their need to make improvements, and also follow up with the process.

This will help you get back on track with employee engagement and customer satisfaction. 

And above all, you will be able to build a good work environment.