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Is an Employee’s Bad Attitude Getting in Your Way?


Do you need a communication breakthrough with employees who have challenging attitudes? With just a little practice, you'll be able to recognize the emotion underneath other people's demeanor, words, and actions. And once you identify the emotion, rather than reacting to what they say or do, you can extend a communication bridge. These bridges can help shift a colleague’s emotional state so they may regain their balance and focus on productive work.

To figure out which of the three emotions are in play, ask yourself this simple question:

Where is their attention focused?

The Sad Employee

Is your employee putting himself down? Is she overly concerned with her shortcomings? These are hypersensitive, self-doubting employees. They are focused on themselves.

People who are feeling sadness will most likely think or speak poorly of themselves. Maybe they are passive or clingy. They need to feel good about themselves and valued in their work. In your interactions with them, let them know you have confidence in them and their abilities. Tell them when they’re doing good work. Verbally appreciate their strengths and contributions.

The Angry Employee

Does your employee have an unproductive focus on other people and situations? Is he or she blaming, criticizing, negative, and generally frustrated with things beyond themselves?

Folks striking out in anger often feel isolated and in need of understanding. They won't respond well to debates, lectures, or reprimands. The chances they'll hear what you have to say are slim to none unless you first sincerely hear them out without interruption or judgment. Focus on what's going on with them behind their anger and accusations. Tell them you want to hear what you have to say and then listen. 

The Fearful Employee

Is the employee easily overwhelmed and anxious about the future or quick to try to control things? Is she worried about time?

When someone exhibits these behaviors chances are they have unexpressed fear. They need honest reassurances. Repeatedly remind them to take one step at a time and focus on the present. Tell them you’ll provide guidance and advice as necessary. Or remind them that their work is valued, and that they’ve done this successfully before.

The three bridges move negative emotions to their positive opposites, creating a more productive and harmonious work environment:

Sadness --> Appreciation --> Joy

Anger --> Understanding --> Love

Fear --> Reassurance --> Peace

You'll deepen your management skills and business relationships when you become adept at recognizing other people's emotions and applying the three bridges. You’ll communicate more effectively and cultivate amazing talent. The three bridges will support relationships in your personal life as well. When someone is quick to anger, rather than offer advice, truly listen to what they are saying and try to understand their position.

Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over more than 30 years working with clients as a licensed therapist and is the subject of her award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life (Riviera Press, 2011). Learn more at

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