Bad attitudes in the workplace are toxic. They affect the employees who harbor them and their coworkers and supervisors. Attitude problems have a greater impact on a small business based on employees having closer working relationships than those in a large, hierarchical organization. An employee with a bad attitude engages in behavior that often is inconsistent with the employer's policies. If your human resources policies attempt to correct attitude, revise them to focus on behaviors and actions, which are simpler to understand and correct.

Workplace Policies

Workplace policies are guidelines and procedures -- they're not intended to be a list of offenses and penalties. By virtue of their leadership roles and authority, supervisors and managers interpret those guidelines and aim for consistent application of policies throughout their departments. That said, workplace policies for bad attitudes are largely ineffective, particularly if they suggest that an employee risks corrective counseling or disciplinary action based on a subjective perception that he has a bad attitude.

Attitude Versus Behavior

A bad attitude may be the result of a workplace conflict or employee stress stemming from personal, non-work-related issues. Regardless of the cause, evaluating an employee's attitude is problematic because it gives a supervisor or manager license to correct an employee's mood, emotional response or personal feeling about her circumstances. Workplace policies that address employee behavior are far more effective. An employee's attitude usually determines her behaviors or actions, which are easier to view objectively and simpler to correct.

Workplace policies are more appropriate when they address behaviors that violate the company's expectations. For example, an employee accused of having a bad attitude might be disruptive in staff meetings, fail to show up for work or refuse to accept assignments from his supervisor. These are discrete actions caused by poor workplace attitudes, but they're recognizable and can be recalled to discuss with the employee during a disciplinary counseling. Supervisors and managers should be trained to observe behavior and refrain from assessing an employee's attitude or emotion when determining whether disciplinary action is appropriate.

Corrective Action

Constructive feedback and disciplinary action are helpful in modifying employees' workplace behavior. Writing a disciplinary warning isn't enough, though. Supervisors who counsel employees on behavior or actions that violate company policy must explain how the employee's behavior affects others. For example, an employee -- initially suspected of having a bad attitude -- who disrupts the staff meeting with rude comments about the company's work processes eventually may convince other employees to join the criticism. Poor performance may be another result of inappropriate behavior. Employees who repeatedly exhibit negative behavior may be more concerned about making a point than they are about their job performance. Following constructive feedback about negative behaviors, supervisors should encourage employees to adopt a positive approach to work.