What does it mean when your boss says you have an attitude problem?

Danger signs

You might think that if you do good work, that's all your boss will care about. But most managers care an enormous amount about attitude and interpersonal skills as well.

If you've ever been told that you have a "bad attitude" or an "attitude problem," that's a real danger sign for your career, or at least for your current job. Here's what it might mean.

1. You're grumpy. A lot

Everyone has occasional frustrations at work, but if your job and everyone around you regularly irritate you, and you're not shy about letting people know it, people are going to dread working with you. If your frustrations impact you to the point that everyone knows about them, it's probably time to decide whether you can find a way to be reasonably happy at work or whether it's time to move on. Otherwise, you'll do serious harm to your reputation and ultimately could even lose your job.

2. You seem annoyed when someone asks you to take on a new piece of work

Trying new things is how people advance professionally. It's how you increase your skills and show that you can stretch beyond where you currently are. It's also how people get raises – not at the outset, when you're first taking on the new work, but later, after you've shown that you can do it well. If you reflexively get put out when someone gives you a new task, you're likely to kill your growth potential, and your boss may start wondering whether you want the job at all.

(To be clear, there are times when it's reasonable to raise concerns with your manager about adding to an already large workload. And if the new work causes a real hardship, such as constant travel, that's reasonable to speak up about.)

3. You roll your eyes or have other visibly negative facial expressions in meetings

Rolling your eyes isn't much different from announcing, "I think this is ridiculous." If it wouldn't be appropriate to say that out loud, it's not appropriate to roll your eyes, smirk or use other facial expressions that communicate a similar message. Nonverbal communication is still communication.

4. You never want to hear that you could have done something differently or better

If you get defensive when you get feedback on your work, you could be doing yourself serious harm. It's tough to give feedback to a defensive person, and many people will simply stop trying. That means that you won't get information that you need to grow professionally, which can significantly limit your prospects and your long-term success. Plus, people who do stick it out and keep giving you feedback anyway are likely to resent that you make it so unpleasant to do it.

5. You always have an excuse for why you couldn't deliver something

 Of course things won't always go as planned, but part of being a strong employee is anticipating obstacles and finding ways to manage around them. If you always cast blame outward rather than looking at what you could have done differently, most managers will be concerned. If you're always offering a reason that a project didn't happen or didn't succeed, and those reasons never involve your own actions, that's a pattern you should take a closer look at.

6. You have a cynical take on most things at work, and people know it

Constant cynicism can be exhausting to be around, and it can make others reluctant to share it when they're feeling optimistic or excited. That will poison a work environment over time. Snark might seem funny in the moment, but if it's your M.O., it's worth considering whether you might be coming across as more negative than you intend.

7. You're preoccupied with "what's in it for you"

It's reasonable to expect that over time, good work should pay off – with better assignments, raises and career advancement. But the key words there are "over time." It's not reasonable to expect special rewards every time you're asked to go even slightly outside your routine responsibilities. Doing that is just part of being on a team (within reason, of course).

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report