Negative people in a workplace have a tendency to warp morale and, sadly there are at one least in every crowd. They may not always be easy to spot, but over time these type employees can do serious damage with their negative attitudes.
In most cases, these people are the quiet ones that make sure the spotlight is never on them and never seeking attention. They’re usually excellent at performing their job, making sure they aren’t called out by others.
But like a nasty virus taking over your computer in the background, their negative personalities chew away at the team morale month-after-month, year-after-year.
What is it about these people? They’re the one’s who:
- Are never happy and continually seek things to make complaints about and take things too far with stretching the truth about co-workers errors.
- Love to spread gossip and start rumors(often false) to pit the staff against one another.
- Goes to employees and talk about co-workers behind their backs, and
- Undermines upper management’s authority with a constant flow of maliciousness that stays under the radar making sure to never get called on the carpet.
Some people believe the best way to fix chronic negative attitudes is either through religion, psychotherapy, or brain surgery. But it’s rare to find a manager that is a priest, shrink or brain surgeon.
Still, trouble still lingers, and every manager needs a plan to deal with the “Debbie-Downers” in the workforce and the constant tug on co-workers attitudes. The stakes run high if the problem lingers and the damage continues.
Finding the answers- 4 major questions
So what can be done? Experts say that managers should back away from the “bad attitude” talk and dive right into the issues with the behavior of the employee. Ask yourself these questions:
- What impact does the employee’s behavior have on the company and its employees?
- How do the worker’s actions and behavior differ from the overall standards set for employee conduct?
- Is there an adverse effect of this employee’s behavior with the co-worker who works with her/him?
- If the employee’s attitude were to our standards, could you see improvements in productivity and morale?
Managers should address adverse actions of employees and make certain they understand they are breaking company policy. Establish a new business policy that clearly states the company expects all employees to act in a professional manner at all times, displaying behavior that shows team support, performance and productivity.
Handling serious conversations with negative people
The first substantial step is establishing a company policy; this creates a suitable protocol. Still, with company policy set in place, managers need guidance that will get results from the day by day environment of the front lines.
Managers need individual coaching sessions to address these points:
- Acknowledge the conversation is awkward: Managers can inform employees the feedback they are providing is uncomfortable to discuss. It is common to feel this way when an employee is behaving disruptively.
- Maintain a results-oriented mode: Such as phrasing a topic like “I’m bringing this to your attention for you to address the issue in order to remain an asset in your job,” should be helpful.
- Affiliate the positive: Bring to light the good things that will likely happen as the employee makes these changes to their out-of-line behavior. However, if the employee remains reckless in their behavior, relaying the repercussions if the individual doesn’t show a change in their attitude proves to be effective as well.
It’s natural to want to postpone having to participate in a robust conversation with an individual with an acidic attitude. But that can only delay the improvement to the overall morale of employees and production. And, being it’s not going to be a good conversation, it’s recommended that managers prepare for the meeting.
Suggestions for controlling the confrontation
- Remain clear of what you expect: Using general terms such as, “I do not appreciate your attitude. You need to change it,” is a mistake. Although it may be safe, it isn’t clear as to what changes you expect. Instead, the supervisor should state “It’s damaging that you gossip about the customers behind their backs. This type behavior ruins the attitude of co-workers in customer service. From here on, if you can’t say anything supportive, it is best you remain quiet and not say anything.”
Supervisors best defense is to have on hand some of the negative comments the individual has said in the past to use for clarity.
- Let people vent….just a little: With people like this once confronting them with concerns about their offensive behavior it’s likely they will feel the need to vent and perhaps even argue with defense. To avoid a further argument and to have the employee feel he/she is on a witness stand, let them vent a bit. This in return will make the person feel you are hearing them- because you are. Then start steering the conversation to the result and performance you want.
- Incorporate “we”: Try to convey the problem is an issue for everyone involved. Try using terms such as, ” It seems we have some problems to correct.” “We need to find some tactics to change the issues at hand.” This approach removes the finger-pointing and brings the attention to the person that behavior is important.
- Limit using “you”: Applying all responsibility onto the individual is a deep rut that is never easy to escape. Overusing the word “you” for instance, ” You have an awful attitude, and we all know it” is an invitation for a confrontation. Instead, use “We need to discuss your perspective.” It’s okay to use “you,” but,over-usage negatively damages the conversation.
- Avoid “but.” Supervisors more often believe that leading with a compliment makes it easier to ease into the problem. Such as, “You’re doing a good job, “but,” then the hammer drops. This approach often angers the employee and leaves them thinking, “I wish he would just say something positive and leave it at that.”
Remain silent if the conversation ends. If the employee gets quiet during a tense situation, don’t feel as though you need to fill in the silence. Don’t. Remain silent, when there is a lag in conversations. Obligate the employee to break the silence.It is shocking the information supervisors get without asking a question simply by remaining quiet.
Hansica Kh. is a content strategist with a proven track record for editorial innovation and a passionate marketer with over 6 years of experience. Holds a Master's degree in Human Resources Management.
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