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Top tips for managing a negative employee

Here at Consult HR, one of the most common complaints we hear about from managers is dealing with a negative employee. Whilst it might be common it is one of the areas that managers find most difficult to deal with. Passing the blame onto others when work is incomplete, moaning about workloads or someone ‘discretely’ spreading negativity within the team… sound familiar?

Someone of a less than sunny disposition tends to spread their negativity to others. Dealing with a single negative employee is one thing, but a whole team of pessimists can be harder to handle. Therefore, when you spot those not-so-admirable qualities in someone, you’ll probably be keen to nip it in the bud before that negative energy spreads.

Therefore, with this in mind, here are our top tips for effectively dealing with a negative employee.

Negative employee

Don’t avoid the problem

The thing about negativity is that it can spread like wildfire. As well as having a knock on effect by impacting the mood and stress levels of others in the workplace, productivity and customer service can suffer too.

It’s easy to dismiss negative behaviour with remarks like “that’s just her personality.” But, as the manager, your failure to take action is likely to affect others in your team and before you know it you could have a toxic working environment on your hands which in turn, can lead to high levels of staff leaving, absenteeism, poor productivity and ultimately a negative impact on your business’ reputation and profits. Before you know it, the positive, motivated, engaged team that you dreamed of disappears due the work of ‘one bad apple’.

Negative employee

Effective ways to deal with a negative employee

While this is most likely to be one of the more awkward conversations you’ll ever have with a member of staff, it is of the upmost of importance. If you fear negativity is creeping into your workplace, put the following steps in place to minimise it:

  1. Set the scene

From the outset at induction and/or during team meetings, management should discuss with the staff the type of working environment you want all staff to work towards. If staff have any problems, they should be aware of who they should address these with and overall sending the message that the working environment you are working towards is one of a ‘can do’ attitude with lots of positivity and the benefits that staff will get from this and encouraging all staff to get behind this.

By doing this, you are not identifying anyone in particular and this may be enough for the rest of the team to get behind the company ethos and turn ‘negative nelly’ around.

negative employee

  1. Make it known

Having a quiet chat (quiet being the operative word) is vital when dealing with a negative employee. Don’t be tempted to bring up this behaviour in front of others as you run the risk of making the situation worse. Bring the employee in for a chat about the problem. There is a chance that they weren’t aware of their attitude. Or, they may use the time to share a problem that they are facing. Getting it out in the open is the easiest way to resolve the situation.

It is also important to remind your employee that they control their attitude and that complaining and fault-finding is a choice. If the employee is coping with a personal matter that is affecting their attitude at work, be sympathetic without condoning the behaviour.

  1. Change their mindset

If your discussion doesn’t go the way you intended and the employee in question can’t see the issue or blames those around them for their attitude, the next step is to try to change their mindset. Highlight the issues surrounding their behaviour and the impact that it could have on others in the workplace. Try to make them see things from a different perspective and offer alternative ways of thinking in order to try to change their mindset. Be specific about their behaviour and what they could do differently. For example, show them an email they sent and how it could have been worded in a more positive way.

During your meeting also focus on the positives, what this employee does well, but his propensity to criticise everything and everyone quickly becomes a weight on the shoulders of the staff and the company. Tell the employee that you’re interested in hearing their concerns, but that you want them to tell you rather than other employees.

Negative employee

4. Force positive behaviour

When you talk with the employee about his negative attitude, give him a goal: Tell him that if he has a problem with a plan, a person, or a situation, you would like to hear something positive he’s found as well. If he’s going to focus on the bad, make him consider the good, too. You can’t change how he thinks, but you can set standards about the language and tone he uses at work.

5. Set the standards and behavioural changes expected

If things don’t improve, more formal processes should be put into place. Clearly set out what you expect in terms of behavioural change and within what timeframe and set a future date to discuss progress. Talk about what specific behaviours you need to see and which benchmarks will demonstrate that changes have taken place.   Give the employee the chance to change their ways.

6. Know when to say goodbye

Sometimes the person simply isn’t a good fit for your business.  When they show they can’t or won’t change, or their behaviour warrants disciplinary action, it could be time to consider letting them go. You should refer to your company policies and procedures and follow these at all times.

Negative employee

If you are struggling to deal with negative employees in the workplace, help is at hand. Contact Julie Pollock on 07858089006 or email julie@consulthr.co.uk to discuss further.

You can also connect with us on Linked-InTwitter or Facebook for regular updates on managing staff.

10 top tips for effectively managing discipline and grievances in the workplace

Whatever the size of your business and regardless of how informal its culture is, one of the key elements that it should have is effective disciplinary and grievance procedures in place. As well as being a requirement of the law, they serve to protect both employers and employees should either the need for disciplinary action or a grievance arise. Not following correct protocol can be a costly mistake. If an employee has been in service for one or more years, failing to take the correct course of action may lead to an unfair dismissal claim, with the potential for a compensation payout.

Thankfully, best practice guidance is available via the ‘LRA code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures’. But if you don’t fancy delving deep into it, we’ve put together some top tips on effectively managing discipline and grievances in the workplace!

discipline and grievances

1. Have relevant and clear policies in place

Having discipline and grievance procedures in place ensures that:

  • Everyone is aware of how disciplinary and grievance problems are dealt with
  • Proceedings will be fair
  • Such issues will be acted upon in a timely and sensitive manner

So that your company’s policies are appropriate, you should ensure that:

  • Staff are aware of their existence and they are readily available
  • All managers are fully trained on these procedures
  • Such issues are dealt with as soon as possible
  • Policies are updated in line with changes in the law or the business structure

2. Determine the best route to take

Each individual grievance should be dealt with accordingly, deeming whether a formal or informal route should be taken. Here, be guided by the employee’s wishes, or the severity of the situation. If, for example, an employee is offended by a comment given by someone else in the workplace, addressing the situation by speaking to the employee in question may effectively resolve it. On the other hand, where issues such as discrimination or harassment arise, treating it as a formal grievance is more appropriate.

3. Designated chairperson

If the need for a formal grievance procedure arises, an appropriate chairperson will need to oversee the meeting. It is essential that the person in question is deemed suitable. Often, the individual’s line manager will chair it. If, however, the subject is of a sensitive nature or the complaint is about the manager, a more senior member of staff may be better suited to deal with it.

4. Confidentiality

Throughout the process, this is of the upmost of importance. Employees concerned, and those who serve as witnesses should be made aware that they are not permitted to discuss the issue with anyone else.

discipline and grievances

5. Investigation

This fact-finding exercise is critical to collate all relevant information relating to the grievance or disciplinary. This stage is essential to establish the facts. Interviews with witnesses may be required, in which notes should be taken. Other steps such as reviewing CCTV, computer or phone records may also be required.

6. Hold a grievance meeting

It is important that a meeting is held as soon as possible, after the issue has been raised. It may be necessary to adjourn it until further investigations are carried out.

7. The right to be accompanied

Employees should be made aware that they have the right to be accompaniedat both disciplinary and grievance meetings. Often this is a trade union representative or a work colleague of the employee’s choice.

8. Reaching a decision

The panel should carefully consider all information and arrive at a fair and reasonable outcome. The employee should be made aware of the decision taken in writing.

So, in the case of a disciplinary process they should be advised if a warning is being issued, what level, the duration of the warning and the improvement expected.

In the case of a grievance process, the employee should be informed of the outcome of their complaints and what action will be taken to resolve the matter.

In either case, the employee should also be made aware that they have the right to appeal.

9. Appeal

If possible, an appeal should be chaired by someone who is more senior to the person who chaired the previous meeting, has not been involved in the process so far, and therefore deemed impartial. Again, employees have the right to be accompanied.

discipline and grievances

10. Seek the advice of a professional

Here at Consult HR, one of the key services we offer is flexibility in dealing with grievances and disciplinary action. We offer on site support or advice on how to conduct investigations, discipline and dismissal meetings, as well as providing advice on appropriate questioning techniques. Furthermore, we can conduct independent investigations or disciplinary hearings and present a report on our findings to ensure a thorough and fair process is conducted.

For more information, contact Julie on: 07858089006.