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Why You Should Never Confront People About a Bad Attitude


Glenn Shepard


February 25, 2014






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Dear Glenn,   

Not a question, just a comment about your story on how many Americans don’t know John Quincy Adams was president. Groupon sent out a Presidents Day promotion honoring Alexander Hamilton as one of our greatest presidents. But he was never president!

Greg in Seattle


Dear Greg,

Groupon says the promotion was a publicity stunt and I believe it was. The part they probably don’t realize is how many people didn't get it because they assume Hamilton was president since his face is on U.S. currency. To see how sad but true this is, ask ten people if Benjamin Franklin was a good president :-)

    Thanks for your question.

Glenn in Nashville, TN

Click here to submit a question. If yours is selected, you'll win your choice of the "I'm the Boss, Not the Babysitter" or "Work Is Not for Sissies"  coffee mug.


Good managers know that it's sometimes better to lose a battle in order to win the war.


Nowhere is this more important than when you have an employee with a bad attitude.


Never confront people about their attitude because no matter how bad it is, they don't believe they have a bad attitude.


Instead, equate behavioral problems to performance problems and address the performance problem. This is a battle you can win, and it can put you on more solid legal ground.


For example, imagine that you're the general manager of a restaurant and you confront a server about his bad attitude. His response is, “What attitude? I don’t have an attitude!”


No matter how right you are, the conversation will quickly deteriorate into “He Said, She Said” and nothing will change.


Equating his attitude problem to a performance problem may take a day or two, but will put you in control of the situation.


Imagine that you go back to him and explain that three customers have complained he was rude to them. The reason he was rude is because he has a bad attitude, but he can't slither out of this conversation.


He tries by responding, “Well who were they? They were WRONG!”


You respond, “That’s exactly what I thought after the first complaint. But I gave you the benefit of a doubt because it was only an isolated incident. After the second complaint, I was concerned but thought it might just be a coincidence. But after the third complaint, it established a pattern and we have a problem. People don’t come to a restaurant for the food, they come for the experience. No matter how good our food is, if our service is lousy, they won’t come back. You are the company to the customer.”



To Your Success,





P.S. If this situation results in termination, you’ll usually be in a better legal position because while an attitude is subjective, receiving multiple customer complaints isn’t.


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