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Focus on Employee Behaviors to Get Results

Effective supervisors discuss employee performance in behavioral terms, rather than mentioning attitudes. Here are some examples of various behaviors and attitudes to be aware of.

We all have "attitude" problems. However, focusing on the attitude of an employee while trying to influence his/her work performance is a bad idea. The following is an excerpt from Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day to Day Employee Performance (2006). Please share these important ideas with the managers and supervisors in your organization to help them speak more confidently with employees about performance.

 Many supervisors get stuck in performance-related discussions when they focus on an employee's attitude rather than behavior. Attitudes are the thoughts or feelings that underlie what the employee does on the job. Behaviors are the observable actions an employee takes when on the job. Effective supervisors discuss employee performance in behavioral terms, rather than mentioning attitudes. Here are examples of various behaviors and attitudes:

Attitudes vs. Behaviors

Enthusiastic vs.  Completing work ahead of schedule

Neglectful vs. Violating a company policy

Laziness vs. Arriving to meetings 30 minutes late

Attention to detail vs. Submitting expense reports without errors or omissions

Difficult to get along with vs. Shouting loudly at a co-worker in the office

Initiative vs. Completing request before the expected deadline

Service-oriented vs. Answering the phone within three rings every time

Messy and/or Slovenly vs. Has trouble locating files promptly

Often supervisors will have a conversation with an employee without preparing for the discussion. When this happens, the discussion with the employee often becomes a "blame game" or loses focus. By preparing ahead of time and focusing on behaviors, you can ensure that the conversation will stay productive.

Discuss only specific, observableFeature Articles, behavioral examples of performance with employees and avoid mentioning the "A" word - attitude.

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Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Chandler, AZ-based Management Education Group, Inc. Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop confident leaders. Contact Green at phone: 480-705-9394 email: web site:

We offer this article on a nonexclusive basis. You may reprint or repost this material as long as Marnie Green's name and contact information are included.


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