In part 1 of Coaching a Bad Attitude, we talked about the importance of having a job manual for every single employee. Often, employees with bad attitudes are also people who hold onto knowledge and power. A manual ensures that no one’s daily actions are a mystery, which means that everyone can be let go if necessary.
In part 2, we discussed the importance of the coach having a positive attitude. Leaders are responsible for helping their employees create success. If we get adversarial with employees, we are ensuring a battle during the coaching.
In part 3, we talked about limiting the conversation to observable behaviors. Proving a bad attitude can be a difficult thing.
In part 4, we outlined the best way to have a coaching session, by using the Coaching Dialogue Outline.
It’s important to note that coaching is not a one-and-done deal; coaching is an ongoing process. The cycle actually starts with observation. We watch our employees and notice what they are doing well and what they could improve on. We are great leaders, so we always comment specifically on the good things in a positive way. Areas of improvement are the topics of coaching.
It’s hard to miss a bad attitude, but it’s important to remember that we are looking for specific behaviors that lead us to believe an employee has a bad attitude. We must have specific, observable behaviors to discuss.
We set up a time to talk and follow the Coaching Dialogue Outline. You can download the outline here. At the end of the conversation, we agree. It’s really important for the next phase of coaching that the agreement be in writing. We can summarize our agreement and then email it to the employee.
We could start the email with: I want to make sure that we are both clear about what we agreed to in our coaching session. A summary is below. Please let me know if I’ve forgotten anything or if you feel that something is not right.
Then say something positive about the coaching session and optimistic for the future.
It is imperative that we pester the employee until we get a response. We must have written confirmation of the employee’s agreement to change his or her behavior. Resend the email if necessary, and ask for confirmation. If that doesn’t work, print the email, hand it to the employee, stand there while he or she reads it, and then get a signature.
People can be slippery and claim not to have understood or not to have agreed to what was discussed in the coaching session. People with bad attitudes are often adept at dodging accountability. Do not let that happen. All is lost if we don’t get written confirmation of our agreement.
The next stage of coaching is action. It’s imperative that we follow through on anything we committed to do. How can we expect employees to adhere to our agreements if we don’t? Now is also when the employee will change his or her behavior. We both put what we agreed to during the coaching session into action.
Now we are back to observing. This time we know exactly what we are looking for as far as acceptable behavior. If the employee makes a positive change, yay! We want to be sure to comment on each and every good thing that we see him or her do. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. However, it’s rarely a one-and-done with a bad attitude.
Usually, we’ve got to go through the coaching cycle again. We observe that the behavior hasn’t changed or that the employee is expressing the bad attitude in new ways. Then we start the cycle again. We coach using the Coaching Dialogue Outline, we get written confirmation of our agreement, and then everyone acts as agreed upon.
So, how long do we continue in the coaching cycle? In workshops, I have people guess how many times we should go around before giving up. The most popular answer that I get is three, but the answer is not a number. We go around the coaching cycle until we lose hope. When we feel certain that there is no point in going around one more time, it’s time to leave the coaching cycle and begin the organization’s official termination policy. It’s essential to get HR involved at this point and do exactly as we are told. HR will be grateful for your documentation of the coaching process.
Lots of leaders have trouble letting an employee go. It’s particularly troubling to terminate an employee who does a good job but has a bad attitude. Know that we are freeing the person to find a job that is better suited to his or her talents and abilities.
Also know that a bad attitude is toxic. One person can destroy the motivation and morale of a team. One person’s bad attitude can also create a lot of turnover, which is quite expensive. Studies show that it costs between 50-90% of an employee’s annual salary to find and train a replacement.
In the end, it’s up to the employees to change bad attitudes and negative behaviors. Some just can’t do it. They are too ingrained in their thought patterns and don’t want to see and do life differently. It is their choice – and our choice not to tolerate behavior that affects productivity, efficiency, positivity, morale, and turnover.
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