Others do read my blogs, I mean it. One of my aquaintance in a software company abroad had read my Interview given to FriendsOfSVCE few years back. In that I have talked about how important it is for people in your team to have right Attitude.

My acquaintance (for privacy sake let us call him Kannan) is facing a situation now and he called me today to help him with suggestions on how to handle it.  Kannan is having a Junior Associate report to him and this associate (incidentally from a different culture) is having serious attitude issues, according to my Kannan. Kannan’s question to me is how important Attitude in the overall job responsibility or in other words how bad should a bad attitude be to declare a person unfit for a job and what qualifies for a bad attitude.

Very difficult questions to answer. Attitude is not a data point and it cannot be measured and expressed in numbers – you cannot say this job role expects an attitude of 75% and the person in question is scoring only 62%. It is subjective, relative and also vary between cultures – especially in this case it is a multi-culture team, where each member is from a different culture/ethnic backgrounds.

American Hertiage Dictionary defines “Attitude” quite nicely:

  • A state of mind or a feeling; disposition: had a positive attitude about work
  • An arrogant or hostile state of mind or disposition

Software and Design Jobs are all made in the “Mind” of the individual. So it is important that the person doing the job is in a right state of Mind for him to perform well and to the extend demanded by the job responsibility. That is why companies pour tons of money into having a good HR, work environment, etc. A negative attitude certainly affects performance, but the tricky thing is how can you measure them and convince your superiors/peers/legal that it is bad and qualifies for a change/fix.

When you face a situtation like this:

  • Have no doubt, it is your job responsibility as a manager to handle these issues. It is not something you are alone in doing it out of your loyalty
  • You will never get people who match your requirements/measure 100%. Accept people for their strengths, but don’t compromise on the job qualification bar
  • You need to have made it clear (communicate) to the Associate that you are not happy with their behaviour/attitude. One of the points I hear in Exit interviews is that people say they didn’t know you are unhappy with them and they cannot read your mind on your expectations
  • Give the other person few chances to correct the issue in question
  • Then talk to your manager – they will have more experience than you in handling situations like this (or) talk to your Office HR Manager. Ensure your manager is in your side for your planned course of action – whatever it is
  • Document things. Especially since in USA, things can get messy with Legal actions. What you said over a coffee table don’t count on your side, but can count for the other party
  • Start laying down the work items that you are expecting the associate to do, the time line to complete it and send it as an email or Intranet work item. Be realistic, don’t be pre-judiced to make him fail in the timelines set. Doing the list, the associate will know that you are serious on what you are saying and that if he is smart that you are trying to prepare proofs for your case. This itself might fix the problem, if not you can use it for your case. Have your manager/his manager endorse this list. Ask for regular reports on the progress. The minute you are clear that his job is suffering because of the attitude your assessment is validated.
  • Lastly, once you have done all this, take a decision and be firm with that. Read my first point again.

Finally I told Kannan “As an Engineer you don’t feel afraid writing the most critical piece of code, so why have doubts while you are facing management issues. Face it with the same courage. Plan well and Things will work out well”.

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