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Manage Behavior - Not Attitude

Employers frequently ask us for assistance in dealing with problem employees. Many times, however, the employer has difficulties describing the behavior that causes the problem. Instead, they will describe their perceptions of the employee’s attitude.

Expressing employment decisions in terms of attitude can get you in trouble. If a judge, jury or a hearings officer arrives at a different perception of the employee’s attitude, you can be subject to liability in an unlawful termination or discrimination lawsuit.

Don’t: Don’t presume to know what is in someone else’s mind, even if you are sure that you know.

Don’t: Don’t make statements in writing or in discussions with problem employees, supervisors or other employees that comment on a problem employee’s attitude. Those statements can be used against you.

Do: Do make decisions based upon behavior. Make notes of the behavior that causes problems. For example, "Sam was at least 15 minutes late eight days this month." Not, "Sally doesn’t care enough about her job to arrive on time." Making employment decisions based upon specific conduct will allow a judge, jury or hearings officer to arrive at the same conclusion that you did if the action is ever challenged.

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