how can I address my employee’s bad attitude?

A reader writes:

I have to meet with a staff member who is generally good at her job but has become increasingly disrespectful and resistant to any direction. Her attitude makes it difficult for me to work with her, but every time I talk to her about anything she is so unpleasant about it and afterwards it is almost the silent treatment. Do you have suggestions for me as her manager to address the attitude without making the whole situation even more unpleasant?

I know I can’t make her respect me, but is there a way that discussing her disrespectful attitude will result in a better attitude and not just make the problem worse?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My coworker keeps pushing unwanted help on me
  • I was asked to work more slowly so other people don’t look bad
  • Asking an interviewer about a recent scandal
  • My manager says I can’t talk to HR without notifying him

{ 48 comments… read them below }

  1. Safely Retired*

    My manager says I can’t talk to HR without notifying him

    Sounds like a good question for HR. 8-)

    1. Cobol*

      But it also could be to prevent somebody from going to HR with staffing or responsibility related issues. For example “Mr. Moore put Arvid and Simone on the IHP account, even though I think I’d do a better job.”

  2. the.kat*

    Oh man, do you ever read old letter and desperately hope they weren’t about you? Because the.kat of a few years ago could have been the silent treatment/bad attitude employee. If it makes it any better – which I’m sure it doesn’t – the silent treatment was an effort to keep from crying. Luckily, as I get more confident in my job, I’m using my words more than my overactive tear ducts!

    Thanks AAM, even if it wasn’t about me.

  3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    For the scandal, I think the best way to approach something like that would be to ask specifically how it impacts your role — that framing makes the question relevant to the discussion, and if it’s an area that is definitely too sensitive to tread, it can be easily shut down in a face-saving way by the interviewer (along the lines of “we really don’t foresee any direct impacts at your level.”)

  4. Amber T*

    Regarding the employee’s bad attitude – I’d be careful how you phrase what behavior to encourage, even leaving that out all together. You don’t want to be that person telling a female employee to smile more and be cheerful (which is how it can very easily come across). Instead, I’d focus on her negative behaviors – stop with the silent treatment after feedback, stop eye rolling, etc.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      As much as I agree that some of that can be gendered, a lot of what is generalized as “bad attitude” IS the absence of positive behaviors–including smiling. I’m not the warmest, smiliest person myself, but I don’t think it’s out of line to say that an employee needs to at least occasionally smile.

      Someone can refrain from overtly negative behaviors but still overall seem unpleasant.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, agreed. And if it’s impacting your job, it’s important information. Whether you think Southwest Airlines cabin crew should have to be bubbly and sassy or not, that’s the standard they seek, and you’re not likely to succeed there if you’re out of step.

        The other thing is that this email really doesn’t sound like somebody just upset that an employee doesn’t smile–the employee is “disrespectful and resistant to any direction.” Even if somebody has a stone face, statements that are clearly respectful and acquiescent would generally prevent somebody from considering them disrespectful and resistant.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Seconded. I have had the “be more cheerful” and “smile more” guidance from bosses. But I have a naturally dour/serious expression and come from a long line of people who don’t smile much, so I was at a loss for how to change without feeling unnatural

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      The only thing I’d add to this is that if the employee really does improve her attitude and stop the negativity, then leave it in the past, and if it occurs again, treat it as a new issue.

      At my last job, I transferred into the department after a big bunch of unpleasant drama and a boss that royally screwed me over. I was (understandably) very negative and bitter about that for quite awhile. And my boss –rightfully — called me on it and told me I had to leave it in the past and move forward. It took a lot for me to do that, but I did, and I was grateful to her for telling me to, essentially, get the hell over it and move on, because she was right.

      However, that all happened during the first year I worked for her. For the remaining 6 years that she was my boss, any time I had an issue with something, or disagreed with someone, etc, she would go back to that whole thing of me being “too negative” and having a “bad attitude,” which would irritate me even more. We had resolved that, and it was in the past. Just because I’m ticked off that someone is being unreasonable or treating me or other people on the team badly doesn’t mean I’m being negative or I have a bad attitude. It means that I’m holding people accountable for their rudeness or other bad behavior. If I think someone has proposed something that is not feasible, or places an undue burden on me and/or my co-workers, I’m going to speak up about it, and that doesn’t mean I’m too negative or have a bad attitude. It really bugged me that she kept going back to that, to the point that she wouldn’t promote me. I realized that advancing my career there meant that I would have to bend over and say, “Thank you!” with a big smile on my face every time someone dumped all over me. So I left.

      1. Kate 2*

        I had a boss do this to me too, but about a different issue. What’s really hilarious and frustrating is that I didn’t have that issue at all, they did!

  5. Trout 'Waver*

    In regards to OP#5, it’s a chain of command issue. Give your manager the first crack at solving your problems, unless there is a serious reason why you can’t talk to her. When you go straight to HR or straight to your manager’s boss, you’re sending the message that you don’t feel like your manager can handle whatever the issue is. There may be very real reasons why that’s the case, but non-pressing general questions certainly don’t fall into that category.

    That being said, the manager is not handling this well either.

    1. Samiratou*

      OP said the reason she went to HR in the first place was because the manager was out of the office. What if you have a time-sensitive question and the “chain of command” is out of the office and you need an answer more quickly than they can provide?

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Then of course go get the answer where you can. But in this instance, the fact that it was a general question suggests it wasn’t time sensitive.

        Furthermore, given that HR mentioned the incident to an executive and that executive then circled back to the manager in question, there’s got to be more to it just that.

        1. Someone else*

          Yeah, what’s in the letter and the boss being out of the office makes my initial knee-jerk reaction that this was totally reasonable to not loop him in, since the point was he wasn’t there. But if HR told VP and VP told boss, and the end of that loop was boss saying what he did…it makes me wonder if the origin story here was more of a “don’t bug HR about this sort of thing; this should be a thing dealt with your own manager; HR has bigger fish to fry”. That…doesn’t really help if it were time sensitive and the asking really were a “they’re here and they’d know and no one else is here” context, but the breadth of the loop here makes me wonder if either some things got distorted somewhere within that chain…or why the people involved weren’t a bit more direct to begin with (like if HR had just said to the OP “next time, we shouldn’t be your first stop for this” at which point OP could’ve said “no one else is here” or whatever). It’s just odd. It makes me think something is missing because the original context sounds entirely reasonable.

    2. Marthooh*

      Yes. I think OP could salvage some trust with their boss by emphasizing that they went to HR only because Boss was out of the office.

  6. Jessica*

    Here’s another take on “Work more slowly so others don’t work bad”, which is to remember that today’s praiseworthy achievement is tomorrow’s minimum requirement. Doing work quickly with reliable excellence inevitably persuades some people that they don’t need to be as diligent with *their* deadlines and details, and that they can give you more work even though it wasn’t in scope…good work is always rewarded with more work. And then what, pretty soon you’re doing 125% of your job for the same money that you’d make if you did 100% of your job? What’s in that for you? Sure, it might get you a raise initially, but pretty soon you’ll just be held to a higher standard than the other people in the same role, and compared with your own past performance. Don’t paint yourself into a corner.

    This is not a commentary on how well you do your job, but it is an attempt to set expectations for the entire department on what constitutes a reasonable turnaround. Pace yourself—deliver a little ahead of schedule, but not significantly. If you wind up with a lot of down time, ask if others need help, look at process updates within your department, whatever. But it honestly isn’t so crazy to ask you to accommodate a more expanded timeline than you personally may need. Even if you don’t need the time, other people may. And putting a little more due diligence into it, even if it sounds like busywork for the sake of it, will only make you more accurate—so you have nothing to lose by taking it down a notch.

    1. Someone else*

      Or even if the OP doesn’t want to factor in the “you will not necessarily be rewarded for overperforming” aspect, there are the others to consider. For example at my company there is a particular task that the company, for years, expected to take an average Teapot Specialist 3-4 hours to complete. When I started, my first six months I averaged 3-4 to complete it. As did every other Teapot Specialist. By the end of my first year, my average was down a little over one hour. It still is. The next fastest Teapot Specialist averages 3 hours. There are two ways I can look at this:
      1) It’s clearly doable in an hour. Everyone else slow. Our standards should change. We should be hiring the sort of people who can do this in an hour, like me. Those four-hour people are just bad at this. When I come in with my constant one-houring, Management realizes this and the new expectation is one hour.
      2) I am Usain Bolt and it’s not reasonable to expect to find a full team of Usain Bolt’s, and if that’s the new standard, everyone else is doomed to fail. When they consistently fail, they’ll either burn out and quit or be fired for not meeting expectations. This will result in a revolving door of Teapots Specialists, a never-ending “train the new person” cycle, lowering the capacity of the helpers and the helpees while people ramp up, only to have them cycle out again when they too fail, which will be no fun for anyone.

      When I read the letter and the comment about not changing expectations, it sounded like the person saying it to OP was sort of trying to avoid situation #2.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        This is an interesting perspective. I can be a bit fussy with my work. I could easily complete tasks in about 1/3 of the time I usually take, but I prefer to use all of the time that I have been given. I go over important documents and projects two or three additional times. I don’t always need to triple check everything, but three or four tiny yet meaningful errors have been caught this way, and this has convinced both me and my superiors that my lengthier process is worthwhile.

        Even without double-checking, I think a lot of people default to using the time that they’re given, since there’s not always an incentive to working more quickly, especially since fast workers can be penalized for appearing like they’re not working enough.

      2. ceiswyn*

        I fear I may have left one or two of my past workplaces with a 2 problem. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t realise myself how fast and skilled I was until the time came to hire and train colleagues/replacements…

        1. JessaB*

          Yes, I left one job with a Usain Bolt problem and they couldn’t even get a bronze medal winner to do the job I was doing. They finally parcelled it out to 3 different people. I covered more than one department and out of them the three biggest each got a person and those people combined covered the rest of the work. It’s really important in a job with clear, countable deliverables to know whether you have one rock star and a team of great people or a competent person and a team of less than average. And you need to know that for sure before you start changing timelines.

          In my case I was an admin so there weren’t clear deliverables beyond get it all done for each of the bosses, not like edit 3 articles or make 5 teapot spouts an hour. Also there was no equipment time, for instance you can only put x number of teapot spout moulds on the conveyor to the kiln, so whilst you MIGHT be able to make 8 spouts, NOBODY could make 9 because the kiln line only takes 8 moulds. You could prepare the moulds, but the actual production was limited to the machine speed. So unless there’s space to hold extra moulds, you can’t go much farther than maybe 10.

          The problem is that when you do have Usain Bolt a lot of bosses really want everyone to run at that speed. They end up losing the silver and bronze workers AND Usain says screw it, I’m going to run for this other country that doesn’t kill the rest of the team.

          However, a lot of commenters are missing Alison’s extra point, which is before you think you’re Usain, make sure that the underlying message isn’t “check twice, because well there’s some stuff in there that could be WAY better.” Make sure you’re running your BEST race, not just your award winning one.

  7. Anonandanon*

    I work with an employee who came in to his position with a chip on his shoulder, from where and why I have no clue, but his attitude and demeanor have been awful. He handles every task so poorly that my manager just removes the task from him and gives it to someone else. He speaks with an exasperated tone to the majority of our customers (except those he knows and likes), and constantly complains about the office temperature, that he has a headache, and groans whenever he gets out of his chair. He was recently diagnosed and is being treated for an illness so my boss feels their hands are tied to do/say anything to him. We recently got a new hire, and I think he’s going to be great but he sits right next to Mr. Complainer so I let him know about the situation and asked him to come to me with any questions (I’m not the only one who has done this, and he himself has noticed the coworker sighing heavily before he answers any phone call). I am trying to disengage from him, and focus on this new guy, and my other coworkers who actually want to be here, and care about our customers. Our boss sits in an office away from where we are so never gets the full effect, but knows very well how he is, and has even gone so far as to make the comment that they wish they could go back to his reference to ream them out for giving him a positive review!

    1. fposte*

      Sounds like the boss is passing the buck here, though. The guy should have been spoken to about this problem within weeks of his hire, whether he was getting treatment for an illness or not.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        1) It is surprisingly hard to hire for even the most basic white collar jobs, especially if there’s a background check or a reference call involved.

        2) Management doesn’t want to be on the hook for having made a bad hire.

        3) The employee might be good at one very small thing that other employees skimp on. At my company, there’s an incompetent customer service rep who LOVES covering for the receptionist’s lunch break. I don’t think this will save her from bad performance reviews in the long run, but in the meantime she’s solving a coverage issue that used to involve grumbling and shift trade-offs.

    2. Bitey Gobstopper Psycho*

      Unless the illness could be reasonably expected to be impacting Mr Complainer’s ability to do the work without, well, complaining, I don’t think it would be too out of line to try and address some of this stuff with Mr Complainer. Especially if the complaining is impacting another employee’s ability to do their own work.

      Negativity clouds are contagions, and can sometimes be contained by asking the source to maybe keep it to themselves ( or talk directly to their manager if it’s a work-related issue that could be resolved by the office).

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Yeah, that’s what struck me as well. I wonder if Mr. Complainer has been suffering from a chronic pain condition in their (back/neck/shoulders/hips). Chronic pain can lead right to depression, which can manifest as anger (=exasperated tone). The constant headaches also suggest this to me. And groaning whenever someone gets out of a chair? Give me more context. Is this a “geez I don’t wanna do this” groan, or is it a “ouch! that hurts every time” groan?

        (And of course, Anonandanon might know what the now-treated illness is, and that might support my thesis or it might not. But chronic pain is one of those hidden disabilities … and since my wife lives with it, I’m likely to suspect it elsewhere.)

    3. Anonandanon*

      Hi all, he complains because he can, not because of any chronic condition. I actually Googled him and found public records about his past which, had I found them when he was initially hired, I would have made my boss aware. The gist of the information was his poor track record with previous jobs and working with others which came to light when he was trying to become a civil servant who would be interacting with the public. He was rejected for every position. He actually changed his shift at work because he thought his day was too stressful. We willingly changed shifts with him, hoping his attitude would change…nope, he did not like that day either…mind you, no one else has had issues with these same days… He now wants to change days again… Ultimately, what it boils down to is the problem lies squarely with him.

    4. JessaB*

      There’s a tendency especially among people with invisible disabilities that have worked in lousy places with annoying people in the past to “perform” disability. It’s not always done consciously, but it’s done so that people don’t go “why can’t Jessa carry her own boxes?” (this is an actual thing that happened to me the job required moving a box of audio tapes that we quality controlled, at the beginning and end of the shift, and I’m not allowed to lift more than 15 lbs.) So yeh I probably groaned a few times getting out of my chair (damaged back.) Was it conscious? Not really, should I have? Not normally no. Once in a while maybe. But it kind of gets drilled down into you.

      There are probably ways to call someone on this. It’s okay to tell even someone with an ADA accommodation that “I know it hurts like crazy but can you try not to be loud about it? Our customers shouldn’t know that about you. You need to not be sighing every time you pick up the phone, etc.” Now that conversation might also come with “do you need an adaptive headset for the phone, are you sighing all the time because your new hearing aids don’t work with it and you’re in ‘avoidance mode?'” Or do you need a different chair, you make noise every time you move.

      But if this is general grumbleness and not an actual reaction to OW I’m moving, moving bad. Oh Gods another phone call I won’t be able to hear right. Then you treat it like anyone else. Disability announced or not, does not give people the right to be snarky, grumpy, passive aggressively making avoidance noises, etc. And it certainly doesn’t allow you to have it rise to where other employees are warning newcomers about you and telling them to avoid asking you things that are part of the job.

      Part of the HUGE problem is that people have gotten the opinion that if someone is disabled you can’t do anything resembling asking them to change something.

  8. M-C*

    #2 yes it does sound like your ‘helper’ is trying to shoehorn themselves in decisions where they don’t belong, and AAM’s advice is very sound. Keep in mind though that you could just be running into a simple cultural difference about what help means. I had a coworker who drove me crazy by first giving me kgb-level grilling about what I had not/done, and then taking over my task completely, any time I just wanted to discuss a particularly gnarly bug in an effort to spark different ideas. I came across a Robin Lakoff book at that time that pointed out how different cultures mean totally different levels of involvement by ‘help’. This was not an obvious case, my helper was not the least bit Greek :-), the best I could figure out was that she had a teenager at home, but it really helped me calm down, and phrase my requests better, and interact like 2 adults. My solution was to leave out any mention of ‘help’ at all, to simply say something like ‘I’m running into some weird stuff here…’, but your mileage is likely to vary.

  9. Artemesia*

    The helper sounds like one of those people who senses a ‘weak’ person, in this case a newbie, and is trying to preempt their authority in order to run things not in his jurisdiction. The world is full of busybodies who enjoy bossing people around. I have worked with a few like this guy and you have to be fairly blunt to get them to back off; they also have a real knack for making the fun decisions but making sure the boring grunt work to carry them out falls on their hapless victim. The OP needs to not seek help form this person — find someone else to ask a question of — and needs to be very clear about ‘I’ve got this’, ‘I don’t need you to sit in on these interviews, I’ve got this’ and relentless push back. This is the kind of person who doesn’t easily take ‘no’ for an answer.

    1. Bitey Gobstopper Psycho*

      Agreed! And a major +1 to all of Alison’s advice in this situation. If there’s someone above both the LW and the ‘helper’ , I’d be interested in telling them what’s going on too – something like “Hey, Helper keeps inserting themself into my work and it’s disrupting my flow. Could you say something to them so they back off?” (hopefully with better wording, but the gist is there, I think).

  10. AdAgencyChick*

    I understand where the manager of the fast editor is coming from in asking her to work slower, or at least to give the appearance of doing so. The manager might have had a lot of experience with working with editors, and knew that OP was very fast relative to her peers — and did not want to create an expectation among other departments that a job takes as long as OP takes to do it, when it would not be possible to make the rest of the editors rise to that level. The manager could also have been trying to prevent everyone wanting to work with OP because their work will get done faster that way.

    This doesn’t mean someone in OP’s situation has to *actually* work any slower (especially if other departments can’t see how many jobs OP is taking on). She can finish project A, accept project B, work on project B, and then send project A back after an agreed-upon time. OP still works to her capacity, but the project owners don’t know that their individual projects don’t take as long to work on as it takes to get them back.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Not only that, but other people might have the perception that fast work can’t be accurate. The OP sounds quite talented, but the manager has to manage an entire team and not just the OP.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, this is what I was thinking.

      Also, if it helps OP, I personally really love the “save it and come back to it in X amount of time” to review it before sending technique – I’ve helped myself by either catching an error or deciding to tweak something many, many times by using that technique.

      My favorite is if I can end up saving something right at the end of the day and look at it with fresh eyes in the morning :)

      1. Birch*

        Yes, this. It’s not necessarily true that fast work isn’t accurate enough, but it’s almost always true that coming back to work later can make it better. I’ve done some freelance language proofreading and I’m very fast at it, but what I like to do is finish it at my usual quick pace, set it aside for a few days, then come back to it before the deadline and re-read everything. I ALWAYS find things that can be improved or small typos that I’ve missed, or a better way to explain to the author why they actually do need an Oxford comma there. From the letter it sounds like OP is only going through the work once, which I guarantee is not OK for really any kind of work, especially work that isn’t 100% objective. If you have the time to doublecheck, you should be doublechecking.

  11. Bookworm*

    For the bad attitude: any chance something has happened in the employee’s life? It sounds like this was not the case initially but over time her attitude has gotten worse. Maybe on the personal level? New co-worker getting on her nerves?

    I’m currently in a situation somewhat like that (I’m the employee though and it’s genuine frustration) and it’s taken me awhile to pinpoint that I suspect it’s a matter of a changeover in supervision which means that I’m basically re-learning certain procedures that are not codified and have some flexibility as to how each employee handles the project. Some things are still not clear to me and I finally laid quite a bit this out (because for some reason they’re not getting why changing people to manage the work + not having standard protocols is annoying all of us). I’m hoping this will change things for the better but I’m also keeping an eye out for other opportunities.

    I’m not saying that perhaps Bad Attitude should have some excuses to cover but I wonder if (since it didn’t seem like a sudden thing) there could be some change or stressor or situation that might be affecting her.

  12. New Bee*

    Good timing for me on the first question–my bad attitude employee is about to go on a PIP, and I’m a bit worried about my boss’s directness–he is quick to soften the message, which is probably why this will be the person’s 3rd PIP in as many years (this is my first year on the job). My boss respects me a lot and is open to feedback (and he’s heard the need to be more direct from more people than just me), but I’m nervous he’ll drop the ball on follow-through. We’re in public education, so we’re stuck with the employee for at least the next semester, and I don’t have authority to fire (and wouldn’t mid-year except for in the most extreme of cases). Hopefully I’ll make it to the Friday OT in time this week.

  13. Shelby Drink the Juice*

    I’ve only had one person complain to me about my “attitude”. The problem was the coworker was condescending and belittling.

    For instance, she would ask me to add some supplement note to a PowerPoint slide and explain “because abc” and I’d say “okay got it” and then she’d proceed to explain it again and I’d say “got it” and then she’d explain it a third time which is when I’d be a little shorter/snippy in my response “YEAH, I got it”.

    I didn’t need her to beat the dead horse over something I understood the first time. She would do this all the time and when I’d finally cut her off (always the third time she started to explain again) I’d be told I had a bad attitude. It’s not like I wasn’t doing exactly what she requested she just always felt the need to lecture me constantly about things.

    1. Argh!*

      Oh gosh I work with a few people like this, including grandboss. I try very hard to be patient but they can probably see that I’ve lost patience. The other downside is never being able to get a word in edgewise without “interrupting.” Well, when you talk in a monologue and there are only 24 hours in a day, uhhh yeah…. gotta interrupt to have a chance to be heard. I’d love some advice on how to do the interrupting. Everything I can think of is worse than just nodding and pretending to listen. “After you’ve finished your sermon, may I inject a word?” just seems mean. And “Don’t you ever breathe?” is biologically unnecessary…

      1. Shelby Drink the Juice*

        The worst part was the condescension just dripped from every word. Worst than a middle school lecture…and I have a masters degree.

    2. boop the first*

      Ughhh yes! Sometimes, it’s a bristly, overly defensive employee. SOMETIMES, it’s just a manager who doesn’t know how to do the employee’s job, doesn’t have anything of their own to actually DO, and “manages” by standing idly by and asking the dumbest questions imaginable. Sometimes.

  14. Argh!*

    The unspoken assumption in both the letter & response is that the manager is using best practices as a manager in general. While it’s not okay for the employee to be resentful, is it okay for the manager to be unwilling to accept feedback?

    If you come in late every day and then put someone on a PIP for tardiness you can be that employee will have a “bad attitude.” Do you blame the employee for things that are really your fault? My bad manager doesn’t give specific instructions or deadlines and then gets on me for not doing things “right” and for being the last one to turn in a product that had no deadline. When I told her I needed specific instructions and a deadline she told me I should “just know” those things, like everybody else does (I checked with everybody else — they find her vague and frustrating, too). I pushed back against that, and she took it wrong. I told her she can’t hold me accountable for something she didn’t tell me to do! She refuses to accept her responsibility when she’s wrong. So… can bet that I’ve lost respect for my boss. I will obey her but my lack of respect is due to her incompetence, not mine. (I read this blog, after all!)

    1. Doe-Eyed*

      I was going to address this. We have a manager that this letter could have come from. He is terrible at his job. He doesn’t know what any of us do (not in the sense that say, he can’t program a website and we can, but that he doesn’t know that Cersei works on websites). He is really technologically illiterate and takes forever to do very simple tasks. (Several got offloaded to me – I developed a report in about 3 days that did work which he was taking 20 hours a month to do). He also hates confrontation, so when work needed to be shuffled around, he dumped it on our coworker, Jamie. But he had done that the last 3 times as well, because Jamie doesn’t really have any ‘patrons’ so to speak. The rest of us work with people higher up the food chain that will scrap for our time if the delegated work is inappropriate. (I’m talking like say, giving the database programmer a stack of papers to staple level of inappropriate.

      After the last dump, Jamie pushed back, albeit not in the best way, and asked why other people got to decline work but he didn’t and attempted to negotiate a raise. The response from the bad manager was to ‘counsel’ him about ‘insubordination’ and threaten to take them to HR. I have now heard this manager characterize Jamie as “having a bad attitude”.

  15. Oscar Martinez*

    I have a boss who played favorites in a really egregious way (subconsciously not addressing me when we are in a group, making me feel small), so naturally I was anxious being around her after some time. And I mean — I was guarded and nervous and tense, instead of my usual easy and fun manner… Which I am certain my boss mistook for disrespect, bad attitude, etc. She was even less communicative (even pretty rude) with me when she sensed this attitude — I am pretty certain my further hurt and nerves was perceived as “resistance to direction”. I thought I was being deferential, but I was only making myself look worse. There has been a more or less happy resolution, but things could have been pretty bad for me. I got lucky.
    I guess my point is… I think a lot of the burden of “good attitude” falls on the direct report. Even if it is reactionary behavior that isn’t necessarily “disrespectful” as much as it is cornered and helpless, you’re gonna be judged. I think that’s just the unfortunate nature of this manager-to-direct report dynamic.

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