April 20, 2018
Turn the Negativity Around
Some people just exude negativity. They gripe about anything and everything. Rarely do they take responsibility and more times than not, they see themselves as the victim. Through some combination of nature and nurture, negativity is their default response but that negative energy can be detrimental in the workplace.
If you manage people, you will likely encounter a situation in which you will have to manage a negative employee. Some managers have the innate ability to handle difficult situations but your team may lack the skill and confidence required to communicate effectively with someone who is negative and can be easily defensive which can cause conflict.
While communicating with these individuals about their behavior can be uncomfortable, doing so can help to eliminate the impact on other workers and this should be priority number one. It’s imperative to address the issue sooner than later to also avoid the spread of one person’s negative attitude to the rest of the group — ultimately affecting effectiveness and productivity. The last thing you want is to have team moral take a hit.
Using specific examples of behavior will help the employee better understand where you are coming from and enable them to make some specific changes. You don’t want to lecture your employee but you do want to make sure you provide enough context to ensure they understand what your concerns are and what expectations you have going forward. Also, encourage them to speak up as issues arise so things don’t escalate in the future. Taking an interest in their well-being by checking in periodically can also strengthen their sense of purpose and belonging. If you simply criticize their approach and don’t acknowledge their concerns, they will end up feeling like their feedback was unwelcomed and ultimately trigger frustration and more negativity.
Don’t take anything said personally and avoid becoming defensive. Keep in mind that most people don’t like constructive feedback even when given with the best intent. Anything can trigger a defensive response so practice what you will say and how – it could save you a lot of headache. A little compassion goes along way – it shows the employee you are interested and concerned about them as a person. There may be some things you can’t help with that perhaps have nothing to do with work but you can listen and sometimes that is all one needs.
Nothing is more challenging than trying to get negative people to respond more positively. However, dealing with issues when they arise and being clear on what those issues are while following through with a plan that addresses them can go a long way. It’s important to acknowledge the value of their perspective and involvement when they communicate effectively.