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Managing a Negative Employee

We’ve all experienced it –the negative employee who never says anything positive and always anticipates the worst. Unfortunately, a single negative attitude spills over the rest of the team pretty quickly. It can:

  • Lower morale
  • Breed resentment
  • Increase turnover
  • Generate customer dissatisfaction
  • Incur liabilities

As you probably know from personal experience, working with a “Negative Nick or Nancy” is no fun at all! Dealing with negativity in the workplace right away is critical, but that doesn’t make it easy. It often involves a very direct conversation. Here are some tips to help you out.

Gather Hard Evidence

Is this negativity something you’ve only heard about, or have you seen it firsthand? Is this a “repeat offense” or just miscommunication on a bad day? Before you go to your employee, you need to have some concrete, firsthand examples of what’s happening.

You may need to take some time ahead of the meeting to write down different events and talk to a couple of trusted employees for their observations.

Coming to the table with hard facts and examples makes your conversation airtight.

Talk About the Impact

Using the “Situation, Behavior, Impact” method, share the situation, talk about their behavior, and show how their actions affected people around them.

Make sure they understand that their negative attitude and mindset is a performance issue that impacts the whole team. Often, it’s not what people say but how they say things that cause the problem. Share examples of how their words and attitude have made others feel.

Ask Good Questions and Listen Well

Sometimes, people repeat negativity because they want to be heard. Of course, we all want to be heard, so take time to ask good questions and let them know you are listening. Perhaps they have some valid concerns and observations motivating their negativity and needing your attention.

In addition, if this negativity is something new, be sure to check in with your employee on the home front. Maybe there’s an underlying issue in their personal life, and they need a listening ear.

Lay Out Boundaries

Personal issues or not, explain how you expect their behavior to change and the consequences if it doesn’t. Set up a game plan to help them catch themselves speaking negatively and choose positive words instead. Offer your help, constructively rather than accusingly. Be firm but compassionate.

Follow Up

It’s tempting for any of us to show improvement only as long as someone’s watching. To keep an employee from slipping back into negative habits, follow up with them regularly. It’s important to stay true to your word and follow through with your promised consequences if change doesn’t occur.

Finally, let your team know you are aware of and handling the situation — it’s your job and not theirs. Document the entire situation, from initial complaints to closure, whether it’s a happier employee, a termination, or somewhere between the two.

Here at Hamilton Connections, we’re passionate about matching the right talent with the right opportunity. We are the placement professionals! If you need to build a more positive team, we want to help! So contact us today, and let’s get started!