Congratulations on your promotion! You deserve it. It’s a good job that’s well paid with great benefits. The one problem is that your boss is a bureaucrat, who’s critical of everyone and, to add to it, you have inherited a team with a lot of big personalities. Uh oh!’ you think. Now, this new position may not be so great after all. It seems that your direct reports represent a big challenge. You’re stuck with the employee whose favorite phrase is, “That’s not my job.” Or even the one whose hobby is to gripe about everything. For you the challenge is clear – you need to do your best to accomplish your goals – despite someone else’s bad attitude.

On the one hand, these types of employees are unhelpful and irritating obstacles.  At worst, they actively try to sabotage anything that you may want to get achieve. On the other hand, those employees’ bad attitudes are costing them, maybe even more than they’re costing you. No one with a bad attitude is ever going to get promoted because they don’t show any willingness to stretch beyond his or her role. The cost to you, as their manager, is significant because it reflects badly on you and these mindsets can be contagious, changing your attitude. How awful for you if your whole team now begins to believe that their lives would be easier if they never went above and beyond their job descriptions! Now, you’ve got a bigger problem to deal with – you have to try to change your employee, right?

The answer is no. You should never try to change an employee’s internal state; as the Manager you can only speak to the behaviors the employee is expressing on the outside. It isn’t fair to try and change a person’s personality. What you can do is induce an adjustment in their attitude. What’s missing from these negative employees is an understanding of an acceptable middle ground. So remind them of this. Sort of like a reset button. Once they understand, their position will take on a whole new meaning. Some of these employees may learn to accept those dissatisfactions that were a major problem before. External behavior is something an employee can learn how to change and, as their leader, it’s something you can demand.

Just like any other aspect of job performance, managing an employee’s attitude is a matter of applying some fundamentals.  You will need to define the behaviors of great attitude: words, tone, and gestures. Be specific – it isn’t enough to tell the ” ‘its not my job’ employee” to be more accommodating. Spell it out. Explain to them that while what’s asked of them may be perceived as outside their job description, having an accommodating attitude means that when they are asked for help they should agree or at the very least offer another resource.

Go ahead and explain that this is part of a list of set expectations. Then, monitor, measure, and document their reaction. As a manager make sure that great attitude and the way it leads to better performance is a much-discussed topic.

Don’t let attitude become a personal issue. Require a good attitude of all employees. Be certain to recognize changes towards better ones and reward your employees. Make it all about the work and everyone will be happy.