How to Deal With a Poor Attitude of an Assistant

by Mason Tilford-Mabry

Today’s busy office can be a breeding ground for bad attitudes – between scheduling demands, a heavy workload and overall office morale, the pressure can affect your staff and the bottom line. The cost of negativity in the workplace has been estimated at billions of dollars annually -- according to one estimate from the Georgia Small Business Development Center, a small office lose up to $500,000 yearly from organizational negativity. These numbers become personal when dealing with your own assistant’s poor attitude and its effects on your office.

Speak Up

It may be tempting to ignore an employee who is spreading negativity among your workforce. However, this non-approach could eventually result in a confrontation between you and your assistant. This conflict could lead to you losing credibility and authority, costing your office revenue and productivity. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room!

Employee Coaching

When discussing the negative attitude with your assistant, approach the topic tactfully. Keep reminding your assistant how a poor attitude can affect your office’s productivity and may violate your company’s policies. For example, you may want to start a discussion by saying, "I feel that your recent negative comments about your coworker created a tense work atmosphere. Do you think when you said these things, it disrupted our teamwork?" When coaching your assistant, listen to their concerns for triggers that might have caused the bad attitude. After discussing the behavior, address the concerns; if you don’t have an answer, tell your assistant you will follow up once you have found an answer for them.

Combat Negativity

Take steps with your assistant to work on their negativity and attitude. This reinforces your commitment to a positive and productive workplace. Watch for signs of negativity in your work area and make sure you address any issues. Remain positive and upbeat. As a role model for positive behaviors, others may model their behavior based on your example. Be the change you want.


After each counseling session, keep notes of your discussions, as well as any action items that need follow up. By following these types of behavioral coaching techniques, you will help your assistant see the consequences of their attitude. In turn, this approach will help you to promote a work atmosphere that is both positive and productive for all of your employees.

About the Author

Mason Tilford-Mabry has extensive experience writing human resources and training materials, both as a corporate manager and as a small business owner. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in English: technical communication from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Photo Credits

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