My Boss Says I Have an Attitude Problem

Sometimes I like to write about search terms that get people to my blogs. In this case the words I found were “my boss says I have an attitude problem.”

Well…you do. Your boss doesn’t like your attitude. And that’s a problem. (-;

Even if YOU don’t think there’s anything wrong with your attitude, the fact that your boss is singling this out means you need to pay attention…and probably take action. Something is not right and he’s letting you know. Although sometimes words like this are just words and nothing else, many times they are clues that your job – or at least any rosy future with the company – may be in jeopardy. I say this not to scare you, but just to make sure that you don’t wait to find out.

So what should you do? This is a good time to politely ask your boss for a chance to talk with him (or her) in private. You want to find out exactly what “attitude problem” means to him, since people have different ideas of that often-used phrase. You need to know the things you say or do that make him think this way about you. And then you need to ask for his guidance on how to improve things.

It’s important to be respectful in this meeting and listen carefully – even if you disagree. Try to understand where he’s coming from. If you remain open, you might even hear something you never realized before that can actually help. And be sure to ask him to explain anything that isn’t clear, letting him know you are really serious about trying to turn things around.

Before you leave, it might be especially helpful if you and he agree on a few goals for you. (Assuming he sees that as useful, of course. You can’t push this too hard in a meeting about your attitude!) And then, make sure you send a polite e-mail thanking him, stating any goals you came up with together, and asking him to let you know if he has any changes to what you wrote or further suggestions. This not only helps you know what’s expected of you, but it also documents the discussion…just in case.

Just be careful that the goals are reasonable, such as “I will do my best not to swear at my boss any more” rather than “I will triple my output and never ever make a mistake.” “I will do my best” or “I will work to improve” is better wording since anyone can slip up and you don’t want to be agreeing to something in writing that puts you in a worse situation!

Reasonable goals are a good way to get back in step with what your boss and the company expects of you. But most important is your own decision to commit to a more positive attitude, and that includes respecting your co-workers and looking for ways to help make things better on the job for everyone – rather than, for example, just focusing on yourself and/or whining about everything that’s wrong without also offering good solutions.

Usually an improved attitude and showing that you’re trying will go far toward building a better place for yourself in the company. And quite honestly, it will also go far in helping you enjoy your job more. Things will start to lighten up a bit as your own attitude lightens up.

Just check in on occasion with your boss and see how you’re doing. You might still need to adjust course a bit, but that’s cool as long as your boss sees you’re making real progress.


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. why would my employer ask for resumes from all the employees now? we have been working here for 15 years or more for some of us. What reason would they have to ask each of us for an updated resume? ANy thoughts?

  2. Wow! You’ve got me stumped on this one, deidre. It could be that they’re looking to reorganize and want to see the various skills. It could be – as I’m sure many of you are thinking – that they may need to let some people go or transfer people and they’re using these to help plan. Or it could simply be that they decided to make it a policy to have updated resumes for all employees in case down the road they need to use them in some way.

    My best advice is for some brave soul to ask, otherwise it just means you’re all sitting around worrying – a terrible thing for any organization.

    Hope it turns out to be not much of anything. Please let us know!

    Ronnie Ann

  3. Hi Ronnie,
    Your blog is interesting. But there are many situations mentioned in the above blog in which the subordinate may be victimized.
    There is no proper definition for an Attitude problem. But it a Higher management tool which might be exercised when they really want to screw an employee. On very few/rare occasions I have seen that the tool have been used to make an employee to improve on his problems.
    Documenting these sort of discussions always gives the higher management/the superior a sufficient proof that the subordinate has accepted that he/she has attitude problem and that can be used to screw him/her at the time of appraisals or lay offs.
    There are occasions where the managers are just concerned about getting work done rather than just concentrating more on the negative aspects of an employee.

  4. Wow- You nailed the Nail right on the head here! I’m a person with attitude and when my Boss had a brief conversation with me saying that he’d identified a bit of strong attitude in me, i thought to myself Well Der! People tell me this all the time. So then, today, 4 months later I was surprised to hear that he wanted to sack me because he’d given me 2 official warnings- which weren’t in paper. His definition of 2 official warnings were different to mine.

  5. I been working for this company for ten years. I was asked to go to another department ( in which I was not happy doing). I been there 3 mts now and ever month my boss say that my clients have complaints that I have an attitude. .. when I asked them in what way they have no answer. And now they asked me do I think I have a attitude! ! I feel no matter what I do or say, ever thou I keep my head down and get on with my job, if I say no to some things, like cleaning the office. They complaint to the boss.
    I have never had any complaints about my attitude at my pervious job, therefore I don’t understand why this is happening now. Please help me I don’t what I’m doing wrong.

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