I have a bad attitude

We’re on the theme of “bad attitude” this month. We’ve had extensive conversations about others’ bad attitudes and how their bad attitudes can cause major problems for us at work. But what if the “bad attitude” culprit is you? What if you’ve got the bad attitude? What can you do?


Your first step in dealing with your grumpiness is to figure out how you arrived in the land of “bad attitude.” It didn’t happen overnight. Bad attitudes usually form over time and they rarely come from one singular event. So ask yourself, does it come from one of these more common reasons:

  • Your boss – is your boss the reason for your bad attitude? Has he or she jerked you around, caused you daily headaches, and generally killed any enthusiasm you’ve ever had? The boss – a common cause of bad attitudes everywhere.
  • Your co-workers – perhaps the reason is your co-workers. Does it feel like you’ve entered middle school and are enjoying all the fun that accompanies adolescent backstabbing, politicking, cliques and overall hurtful behavior? Bad co-workers can be an attitude crusher for sure.
  • You lost the magic – did you lose your passion and fulfillment for what you do? Maybe you never had it and that’s the problem. Regardless, having an empty hole where there should be a spark can end in a bad attitude.
  • Burn-out – too much. Is your bad attitude a result of just too much for too long without a breather, a break or any help? In this economy, two thumbs down for this all-too-common attitude disintegrator.

What’s it costing you?

Grab a handy piece of paper and jot down what the costs might be if your attitude doesn’t turn from the dark side. Consider the following significant costs:

  • Reputation / Brand? Are you getting to be known as the one with the “Bad Attitude?” It takes a long time to turn those around. Be careful. A “rep” can form overnight and take years to overcome.
  • Relationships? Are your co-workers and your boss fighting with you more often… or worse, are they beginning to steer clear of you? This could hurt your ability to be effective, be a part of the team and may even mean they are preparing to “invite you to leave.”
  • Promotions / Opportunities? Are you at risk of losing future opportunities because of your bad attitude today? No one wants to be stuck. Be careful.

Turning from the Dark Side

There are two good paths for turning around one’s attitude. Consider dipping from both to ensure a proper inoculation.

1. Reconnect with your vision for your career / life – Bad attitudes are about the “here and now.” One way to counter your bad attitude is to begin to think about your career plan. What’s next and what would bring you enjoyment in your career? Fulfillment and meaning can be a cure for any bad attitude. Consider the following:

    • What’s your vision for your career? Do you have a plan on where you want to go over the next several years? Get one. For more, see this post on setting inspirational goals.
    • What’s your purpose for your career and life? This is such an important topic that I spent two entire months on it! Consider some of these 5 questions to help you get there.


2. Recharge your batteries – You probably aren’t good to anyone right now (including yourself) until you recharge your batteries. Consider some of these good strategies for getting your mojo back:

    • Vacation – There is an art and science to vacationing. Picking the right format can be just what the doctored ordered. Choosing poorly can leave you in worse shape (if that’s possible). For more on vacationing, go here.
    • Rest – Are you getting the proper rest you need? Shoot for 7 hours – anything less and you may be actually dealing with an exhaustion problem more than an actual attitude problem. Let’s see what we are really dealing with. Shoot for a good “catch up” night of sleep ASAP.
    • The right people – are you hanging with the right people? The right crowd recharges your batteries. The wrong crowd drains you. Get together with you peeps, ASAP for regular nights out (or at least one).
    • Hobbies – Is there anything else that might get you charged up and give you energy? Exercise, woodwork, scrapbooking, golf, collecting Hummel figurines, etc… Reconnect with the things that get you excited and see if you start feeling better.


And of course, there’s always medication, but before we start messing with your body chemistry I prefer that we start with less extreme options. Then again, if you are going to start collecting Hummel figurines as your solution, maybe medication is a better option.

Regardless, start today. Don’t be like Darth Vader and decide after decades of a bad attitude, you’re gonna turn it around just to end up croaking a short time later. What a bummer.


A note from Brandon
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12 replies
  1. Still can't get it right says:

    I’ve spent most of the past 8 years in jobs in which I developed a passion to do my job well, but the incompetent boss and childish coworkers forced me to go elsewhere. Now I’m finally in a job doing something I love, but 8 months in I’m still dealing with inompetent employers and childish coworkers. I’ve made my frustrations know to my employer but nothing has changed and nothing will change. I like items 1 and 2 for Turning from the Dark Side, but they don’t really help get rid of that feeling of dread when it comes to going to work.

  2. Brandon Smith says:

    “Still can’t get it right,” I hear ya. So, now you are onto the bigger question: “Is it the kinds of companies I’m choosing to work at that is the problem (bad culture fits) or is it ME?” Big stuff. So, if we put it that way, you’ve got two good options in front of you. 1. Find other / different work environments and try them out. See if they fit better. 2. Go the contractor / consultant route. From personal experience (I really feel trapped when I work inside an organization that is dysfunctional… and which organization isn’t?), I have found that it is easier to have patience and compassion for those I work with AND deliver good work as a contractor / consultant. There are many implications to that decision, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it might be the cure for what ales you. Keep me posted and thanks for the FANTASTIC comment!


  3. Brandon Smith says:

    I’ll give you my perspective on the best ways to get into consulting.
    1. Start with finding something you love and are passionate about. What problem do you want to solve? Operations? Marketing? Finance? Leadership? Etc… Also consider what industries you may want to be consulting in: Non-profits? Banks? Retail? Hospitality? Small businesses? etc…
    2. Next find a way to get credibility in that arena if you don’t already have it. Whether that’s experience or relationships, you’ll need stories to tell. That’s how consultants sell.
    3. You need someone to give you your first shot. Paid or unpaid, you’ll need a first client.

    Now, if you would rather join a big firm, the easiest path is to get an MBA (if you don’t already have one) and interview when you complete your degree (or for an internship). That’s how most big firms recruit.

  4. Carleah says:

    It was brought to my attention that I have a bad attitude with adults. It has gotten in the way of my school work and cheerleading. what should I do

  5. Brandon Smith says:

    Your first step is to figure out what “bad attitude” looks like to others. What are they reacting to? Are you interrupting? Are you turning your back and making faces when they talk? Are you arguing and dismissing the other person? You get the idea… Figure out what others are seeing that they don’t like. Second, try to consciously change it. For example, if you are interrupting them, focus on listening until they are finished talking. If you are turning away and making faces, focus on the person talking and face them until they are done, etc… Those are easy. The hard part is what if you can’t? That’s when you need to dig deeper and ask yourself “Why am I dismissing adults? Where does that come from?” It’s in those cases that you might want to seek a counselor or a trusted third party to help you figure out the why and move through it. Often in cases of “stuckness,” it can be traced back to someone in one’s past similar to the offended party (in your case perhaps an adult or authority figure in your past) who had let the person down or disappointed him or her. Harbor that resentment sometimes results in defensive behaviors such as dismissiveness, disrespect and distrust. Resolving that might allow you to move forward.

    And of course, if I can help in any other way, don’t hesitate to shoot me a note. Just go to the home page and click on the link on the right-hand column that says “Ask the Therapist.” That will go directly to me. Hang in there!


    I have decided I want to recover from my “bad attitude” persona, I know it is hard because of the reputation spreads without verification, all it takes is 1 person or incident for the lookie lou’s and gossip line and grapevine to pass it on………….I have googled alot, and found chris croft, and you ofcourse, I am trying to keep practicing until it feels natural, but it feels fake to me, and at times a bit dry, which doesn’t help, is it possible it may be a struggle for others also, or just Me:), I work with very difficult patients in the VA, so the challenges are endless and it is hard not to stay armour plated, and defensive, with usually long term equals “bad attitude” can you help?

  7. Brandon Smith says:

    First, give yourself some grace. VA environments have their own unique flavor of dysfunction. It can be particularly difficult to stay positive with the combination of difficult patients and politics. Definitely not one of the more supportive environments. That being said, other than a possible change of environment, I would find some “positive influences” you can surround yourself with. That can be friends outside of work or friends at work that keep you upbeat and positive. Gravitate to positives vs. negative people and situations. Even consider listening to positive / upbeat music on your commutes. It is critical for you to fill as much of your available time with reinforcers of the attitude you want and not detractors. Finally, exercise can also be a huge contributor. Consider working that into your routine 3-4 times a week with at least 30 minutes of light cardio (walking, etc…). Keep me posted and good luck!

  8. ADA says:

    I’ve worked from several companies already. Almost all of my bosses do not like me. My co-workers would say during my first week at work to beware of my boss. I would hear a lot of things about my boss, but instead of running away it just challenged me more. But I would end up leaving in a bit of discord with them. My co-workers would say I most probably just intimidate my boss because I’m better. Some would commend me for being so patient in dealing with ‘difficult’ boss or for even staying to work for those bosses. My staff would say I’m a good leader and that they’ve learned a lot from me. Others would say my boss doesn’t like me because I’m a ‘pro-employee’ manager. I think my staff and co-workers are just making me feel better. I don’t know what to believe anymore. My bosses’ comments still linger in my mind because I couldn’t accept what they have thought or perceived of me, but I’m also taking every comment into consideration for my own improvement. But since I’m in disbelief of what they say I am, I feel that I no longer know myself since it seems that I act different from who I believe I am. I’m not sure anymore also if I’m becoming the person I am as they thought I am because it is indeed who I am or because it’s who they said I am and I am starting to believe as well.

    I’m a CPA and now I’ve decided to have my own practice. I’m still in the process of accreditation and registration as it took me almost a year to gather up my self from a series of previous unsuccessful stints that only points out I’m no good employee, simply put from depression. It’s difficult to start on one’s own feet with no support and I don’t know where else to get confidence especially when your own family does not treat you as an adult or professional. Good thing I have an understanding and supportive husband. I know that I’m guilty of absenteeism and tardiness once I’ve decided that I have no plans to stay in the company longer. A boss even called my attention for taking breaks to extract breast milk for my baby even if I extend my work hours to compensate for the lost time, and we’re both working in a company that promotes breastfeeding and even provided an exclusive room and fridge for lactating employees. I’m a know-it-all type but I am only insistent in what I believe would work and is right (in which historically, I hate to say that I am indeed right). I believe I am a good leader, and a rational, reasonable, fair and just person. I assert my rights and I’m vocal of my opinion when needed. I believe I have good foresight (except now that I’m leaving everything in God’s hands) to the point that it takes others 2-3 years to realize the benefits of some of my suggestions. I’m firm with my values and I have high ethical standards (a friend have told me that I need to adjust my ethical standards according to management needs).

    I was told once by a co-worker that I envy. I just made a comment that it’s good that a victim of terrorist kidnapping got saved and received so many gifts such as house, cash and scholarships for his children, but how about the others (since he was not the only one who got kidnapped)? I am just expressing myself in the unjust treatment of victims because most of the donors are politicians running for a seat back then and are taking advantage of the hype with the first victim saved. And suddenly, with all seriousness she said I’m just jealous and from then on she became aloof of me. I’d like to be around positive people but the positive ones are gearing away from the ‘negative’ people like us.

    With all these, I fear I won’t succeed in anything even in my own practice simply because I am.

  9. Scotswhahae says:

    I think it is high time we faced the truth in our large corporations and recognised that the worst attitude of anyone in the business usually comes from autocratic people at or near the top of the organisation. The limitations of command and control management are causing spectacular dysfunction in the world of work today, as any employee who says anything other than “yes sir” is considered to have an attitude problem. This just plain wrong.

    Senior staff who use shame, blame fear and public humiliation to manipulate staff and sucking up and alleged positive thinking and perceived certainty with charm and smarm to their bosses are not good leaders, they are Narcissists – in short fakers! Anyone who is really good at their job and aware enough to see through their charade is a potential risk, as you could “out them” to others, so the main play these people have is to gossip, embarrass or discredit you in some way so that other people don’t pay attention to what you say. In short they attempt to brand you with an attitude problem. If this scenario sounds true to your experience, then feel validated, you are not wrong, this phenomenon is real. Telling the business sadly does nothing but get you targeted even more as the business wants to shut you up. The business can not face the reality of their own disastrous decisions in terms of who to hire, promote and support.

    What we the people need is for Brandon and any other thought leaders with influence in business to get the big organisations to realise that they need to clean up their act. Businesses should test senior team members for Narcissistic / Sociopathic traits BEFORE considering them for promotion. Empathy, and moral reasoning are not nice to haves, they are imperative qualities necessary for leadership. If big businesses do not change, then they will all go the way of every empire from the dawn of time, with a period of overblown growth, followed by a spectacular decline. Think, Enron, Worldcom, The Roman Empire, or Nazi Germany or the recent banking crisis in the Western World.

    It is time to stop telling these Narcissists what they want to hear, it is time to tell our shareholders, governments and all other interested stakeholders what they need to hear. Socipaths and Narcissists in power are dangerous. They abuse people to serve their egos, not the customer / company. They do not play well with others. They cannot be trusted. Children in their families often suffer mental illness, and so do many of their staff. This is not a weakness in their children or your staff, the weakness is in the Narcissist / Sociopath. Please cleanse your business of these people and instead put in place authentic leaders, then and only then will we truly address the worst attitudes in business of our time.

  10. Mayte says:

    Hello,is hard to explain what I am going through but the reality is I can’t handle no more.Is not the first time I got the same issue in other jobs when come to,bossy Co workers or people telling me what to do all the time.I know I got and attitude problem wich make me become very defensive at time.It has created me loose my job several times, but in the other hand I can’t not just blame myself as coworkers play a huge part many times.is just like that make me fight back every time,the way they treat me and the unfair things I see but no one seems to see it.I been in this job for 9 month now as a kitcheng assistant is a very demanding job with loads of multitasking. Wile I try my best to do my job in the best way coworkers talk behind my back that I got and attitude and much more.I feel desperate as I really want to find the answer and get better.please help ..kind regards. Mayte

  11. Brandon Smith says:

    Hi Mayte,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles. I know you must feel incredibly frustrated. From where I sit, you have two options:
    1. You can work on improving your relationships at work. Research shows that the best teams give each other at least 3 pieces of positive feedback for every 1 piece of negative feedback. So, in your case, are you giving your coworkers enough positive feedback? Compliments, signs of appreciation, etc… Try for a 3 to 1 ratio.
    2. You might just not be the type of person who works well with others on teams. That is o.k. There are plenty of amazing high performers who work better on their own. If that is you, consider finding a job that is more solo and doesn’t require a lot of contact with others on a regular basis.

    Good luck and keep me posted!

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