5 Tips for Handling Negative EmployeesApril 18, 2017 - By: Jason Carney
When it comes to figuring out the best way to deal with a negative employee, we’ve all gotten stuck on the same question – when is it time to step up and say or do something about it? The best answer is: anytime you feel like said employee is interfering with others’ work in some way it’s time to do something about it, no matter how small or insignificant the problem may seem. The truth is, negativity is one of those things that can spread like wildfire, and no company can afford to let it fester.
There’s no way around it, navigating conversations with a negative employee isn’t pleasant, especially if the situation has escalated beyond everyday grumblings. Here are five surefire steps to help guide your path toward a solution that is best for everyone.
- Active listening
At the first hint of negativity, an important step is to pull the employee aside and just listen and allow a little ranting. In most cases, they will just want to complain for the sake of complaining and then move on. If this is the case, allowing the employee to talk it out will help them see you as a manager that cares, and that trust will only help if a negativity issue arises again in the future.
- Use ‘we,’ avoid ‘you’
If the negativity issue escalates beyond simply hearing the employee out, adopt the mantra of using ‘we’ pronouns and avoiding ‘you.’ If you start the conversation with “…you’ve been doing this and that and it needs to stop,” the employee will likely feel less supported and more attacked. Use ‘we’ phrases to remind them they are part of the team and a joint solution is in everyone’s best interest. It will make them feel more like everyone is in it together.
- Keep it results-oriented
When addressing the changes in behavior that need to happen, stay focused on the specific tasks at hand and what needs to get done in order for the negative employee to be successful at their job. Coming from an angle of wanting them to improve for their own personal career success will help maintain that trust. Plus, putting a positive spin on the conversation will help steer the employee away from feeling blamed.
- Highlight the positive
As part of offering a solution, highlight the positive outcomes that are likely to happen when the negative employee changes the disruptive behavior. Demonstrate that they, as well as the rest of the company, will benefit from this change to help bring perspective to the situation and why it’s so important for it to happen. However, if the defiance persists, try flipping the switch and stress the negative outcomes that are on the horizon if the employee’s attitude doesn’t change.
- Proper documentation
If the situation warrants it, filing documentation to track your conversations with a negative employee may be a necessary step toward a solution. If so, be sure to offer facts not opinions, concise vs general wording, and specific examples of how the behavior has been to date and how it needs to change in your documentation. Leaving little to no room for interpretation is vital if the situation has escalated to this point. Try to leave with a consensus on the solution the negative employee will pursue moving forward, and how you as a manager will be supporting this solution.
Putting an end to negativity isn’t an easy task, but it is vital to the wellbeing of the company overall. Taking steps early and often is the best way to stay ahead of negativity in the office.
Just as important is knowing how to build positive relationships in the workplace. For our top tips on this topic, visit our recent blog on getting back to the basics.