Rotten Attitudes Ruin a Team: Changing the Team Dynamic

Rotten Attitudes Ruin a Team: Changing the Team Dynamic
Rhonda R. Savage

Negativity, gossip, chronic lateness, favoritism, micromanagement or a sense of entitlement pull businesses down. A clear system of accountability drives a business up. The old adage is true: “A few bad apples will spoil the entire bunch.” Negativity and bad attitudes are contagious. Much like the spread of an infectious virus, these naysayers will pull down the spirit of everyone who listens to them or is around them. 

Let’s hit on some of the behaviors you may notice within your team. 

The issues: 

1.     The critical voice: 

“Did you notice that Tina doesn’t answer the phone properly? She’s been here long enough and should know better, but she never does it right.” An employee with the critical voice will use words like always, never, won’t or can’t. 

2.     The jealous voice: 

This person often feels that everyone deserves the same treatment and the same pay; raises should be based on time on the job, not based upon performance. “I deserve equal treatment regardless of talent or performance,” an employee might say. A sense of entitlement often feeds this voice. You cannot pay this person enough, in their eyes, nor will your benefits ever be enough. 

Gossip often is a tool this person uses to stir the pot. 

3.     The “inability to admit I’m wrong” voice: 

“It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it.” This person doesn’t accept blame or responsibility. It must have been someone else or attributed to something else. This voice has an excuse for everything and deflects the discussion away from him or herself. 

4.     The “I’ll never get over it” voice: 

This person wouldn’t forget the little toenail you clipped off three years ago. The topic won’t go away in their mind, even though it’s been hashed to death at multiple team meetings. You want to say, “Alright, enough already. Enough with the pity party; let’s move on.” This person holds grudges, bitterness builds and the silent treatment abounds. 

5.     The “it’s all about me” voice: 

“Did you see how I got Fred Smith to purchase our services today?” (i.e., Did you notice how great I am?) This person needs constant praise and applause. Sadly, no matter how much you stroke this person’s ego, it’s never enough. This person believes that much of the success of the company is because of him or herself. Often, the owner or manager believes this too and keeps this person despite the low morale in the office, saying, “But she collects money better than anyone else ever could. I’ll never find anyone else as good as her.” 

6.     The defensive voice: 

“I’m so sensitive, if you talk with me, I’ll burst into anger or give you the silent treatment.” 

Repeated angry outbursts or giving others the silent treatment are not good for a business. You need to be able to approach and coach your employees. 

The solutions: 

  • Be goal focused as a business; include your employees in the accomplishment of the goals. Be goal focused on your individual employees: What one thing should this person be accomplishing in the next three to six months that will add to your business and their growth? Productive people are happier people. Busy people do not have time to stand around and gossip, complain or spread negativity. It’s worse to be overstaffed than slightly understaffed.
  • Lead by example. If the problem is you (gossiping, negative attitude, always grabbing the attention, or exploding in anger) you’ll have a hard time holding others accountable.
  • Discuss your expectations of behavior, as a team, based upon the values of you and your business.
  • If the negative behavior continues, address this person privately. Be specific, simple and clear. Be direct yet respectful. Document the discussion. Remember, the calm person is in charge. Think about what you really want from the situation prior to the discussion.
  • Continue to hold this person accountable to your expectations. Discuss how their job performance is hindered by their attitude or behavior.
  • If the behavior persists, and you’ve documented it well, you have a choice: Fire the person, or give one more chance. Do a formal, written, corrective review which both parties sign (it’s not an option to sign; refusal to sign is grounds for immediate termination).
  • Have a zero tolerance for gossip and negativity. This means, as a leader, you’ll need to lead by example. You also may need to make the hard decision if someone cannot change and move forward in a positive manner. 

Good leaders take action and make the hard decision. Is it time for a change in your business? 

About the Author
Rhonda Savage, DDS, is a motivational speaker on leadership, women’s issues and communication. Visit or email


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