Attitude problem

I’ve heard this from HRs at many companies (especially in India) – “She/He has an attitude problem”. Now I’ve never met all of these candidates but I know for sure that at least three of these candidates are self confident, pride themselves in what they do and are direct in their responses. In some ways I can interpret this as a cultural issue. I guess “rebels” are not welcomed into companies with a deep hierarchy as they might disturb the equilibrium. I can understand an HR’s predicament that someone who comes into the company with a real bad attitude will cause everyone to expend more energy dealing with the attitude issues than getting any work done. However there is pretty big wall between genuine bad attitudes and what can be interpreted as bad attitude. A few pointers:

– By default I do not assume anything as bad attitude. Only as confidence. If this were the case, I poke enough holes into the person’s cause for confidence. When they hit an air hole, their response tells me if it is an attitude issue or plain confidence. An example: I interviewed a lot of candidates who were very confident about their skills. When I started asking them questions that dived deeper everyone hit the dark spot. Everyone one of these candidates responded by saying that they do not know the answer. They were not defensive about it. I interviewed one dude with a genuine attitude problem. The very first question I gave him started opening up the wounds. He could not answer the problem and would give me quite vague answers. I am not talking about missing out trivial points – I am talking about the correctness of the solution. When I asked him to give me a complete solution he went into a fit. In effect, he lost the slot.

– Everyone has a history with a bad boss. If you don’t have it yet, just wait for sometime. However, I would guess that everyone will come across a good company and a good boss once in a while. Pleasant memories of the past engagements are a sure shot indicator of it not being an attitude problem.

– Asking for a good fat paycheck is not an attitude problem.

– Asking for a chat with the manager to whom the candidate will report is concern for his job and not an attitude issue.

– Answering a call while taking an interview is definitely an attitude issue, especially when the candidate does not apologise for taking the call. I’ve had a few candidates who told me well in advance that they were expecting a call.

– Having trouble explaining the rapid jump between multiple companies is an indicator of an attitude issue.

– Questioning authority is NOT an attitude problem. Providing solutions to a given problem is definitely a way to impress your boss. However heckling the manager is not really a good thing to have.

I will not claim that I know exactly what is an attitude problem but I will claim that I know what is not an attitude problem. Even I hired a guy who definitely had attitude issues. That was one case where I was wrong.

I understand that just writing a blog post won’t explain everything. This post is only meant to jolt people with the idea that they have to revisit their notion of “bad attitude”. In the end if you lose a candidate/employee because you confused his/her qualities with bad attitude, you are the one to suffer.

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