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.
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’.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are struggling to deal with negative employees in the workplace, help is at hand. Contact Julie Pollock on 07858089006 or email email@example.com to discuss further.