Accuses Me Of Having A Bad Attitude

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about bad attitude:

I am facing a situation where I don’t know where to start. My manager has been accusing me of having bad attitude, saying I fail to control my behaviour and it is now affecting the team. I am not aware of any behavioural issues from my side; she even calls me at 20:00 to ask me what is my problem. I have had a meeting with her to discuss the matter, so I told her that I feel that I am under surveillance and can she highlight immediately when she picks up that attitude or behaviour problem.

I have tried so hard to smile as often as possible, but she came back again to say she has not seen any improvement in my behaviour. She made an example of the way I greeted her “You greeted me like you were doing me a favour” which for me is now personal. She has gone to the extent of referring me for Emotional Intelligence training for over a period of 6 months. Now my fear is that she will want to discipline me for this.

Please advise. —Trying to Please

Dear Trying to Please:

You are worried you might be disciplined because your “manager has been accusing you of having  bad attitude.” She says it “is affecting your team.” That accusation implies she has confronted you from time to time about this. You’ve met with her about this matter and disclosed you feel like you are under constant surveillance. You have asked that she immediately highlight when she sees you behave with a bad attitude. The one incident you report of which she has been specific is that she feels your morning greeting came across like it was doing her a favor.

Advice? Attitude is not something anyone can give you. Rather it’s an accumulation of physical and mental processes within you. Let’s assume your manager is correct. What steps might you take to at least be seen as trying to change? I’ll suggest several for you to consider. Feel free to say if these apply to your work setting. You know it is impossible for me as an outsider to know what you know. Perhaps some of my suggestions will seem applicable or might spark you may think of others that are better.

  1. Symptoms. Play Workplace Doctor Yourself. Let’s pretend you are the workplace doctor (or ombudsman as some companies have). An employee, named Kim, comes for advice. She reports that her manager complained she had a bad attitude. Your first question likely would be, “When and how often did she accuse you of that?” Follow up questions you might ask are, “Kim, how do you feel about your job, your team and me, your manager?” Kim’s answer would tell you a lot. Get my point–you need to assess how things have been going for you and for those with whom you work. You say “I am not aware of any behavioural issues from my side.” Really? You can’t sense that any on your team might think or say you are pushy, picky, prickly, or withdrawn or fail to do your part? Maybe not. That’s good. But for some reason, someone on your team must have conveyed that you have a bad attitude. Therefore thinking back, looking in the mirror, might clue you into incidents and behavior that caused them to feel you had a less than positive attitude.

  2. Cause. Playing Doctor Yourself. “Kim, are your opinions respected by your team? By your manage? How do you feel about not being asked for your ideas? Do they interrupt you? Do you feel included or excluded? Why might that be? Do you feel some gossip about how poorly you do your work or about your appearance or about your health or personal life? Do you have  any friends on your team? Do you think some on your team talk about you to your manager?” Once Kim answers these questions, you as Doctor should be able to diagnose Kim’s attitude.

  1. Prescription. Playing Doctor Yourself. “Kim, I sense you don’t really feel good about your job and your team. Have you made more than an effort to smile such as by expressing a word of appreciation for what you see as good work or coworkers or manager being thoughtful? Have you noted feel good times when you, your coworkers or manager has accomplished something? Have you cheered on or cheered up anyone? My prescription is for you to log those feel good moments. Try it for a week and I  predict that your attitude will be seen as less bad, and more than that, you will feel better about yourself.

  2. Don’t Play Doctor. Let’s suppose you reject 1, 2, & 3, but want to be constructively assertive. First, I propose you have a candid timeout talk with your manager. Tell her you want to have a positive attitude and you are sorry she sees yours as not improving. Say you accept her referral for Emotional Intelligence training. That can’t hurt you and it provides a tangible way to learn about and think about our emotions. If you do this your conversation, rather than being defensive, might even be seen as cooperative. Those who manager want to be needed as well as respected? What if you said you want her help to make a career that contributes, that you want a life that counts.

  3. Think Team. Another positive assertive action on your part would be to put on your thinking cap and ask how you and your team might cut waste –wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy and wasted money.  One way to do that is to think and act as a team with a coach. This might make your staff meetings into skull sessions –skull sessions that talk about what has been going well and what might be done to make it go better. Since apparently you have been seen as having a bad attitude, you would best go slow on making suggestions. It will be better to listen and not be seen as aggressive, but after a while you could talk with your manager about such ideas of cutting waste and find ways to improve quality.

Now, do any of these five suggestions make a bit of sense? If not, at least you have not wasted any money on them. I’m sure you know people don’t like to be around those with a bad attitude or complain about a boss who is accuses you on that. So don’t complain at home or with friends. Find some outside of work activity that makes you feel good–reading, workouts, yoga, singing in a choir, helping the disabled or less fortunate.

The hard fact is that some work is boring, dirty, dangerous and pay is poor. Even if the job is good, a manager or coworkers can make work miserable. Until and if we find work that is meaningful and reasonable we have little other choice. You wouldn’t have submitted this question, if you didn’t care. Please feel free to let me know how it is going for you after thinking through these suggestions. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.