Every leader wants a cohesive and harmonious team that always gets along and beams with positivity. Yet, at times, managers and leaders face the challenging task of dealing with negative employees whose attitudes and behaviors can potentially harm the work environment. Unfortunately, experiencing negativity is nearly unavoidable in the workplace. An eye-opening 98 percent of workers have experienced rudeness or negativity in the office at some point in their careers.
Understanding how to effectively address negativity and transform it into positive energy is critical for maintaining a happy workplace. Not only that, handling negativity quickly and correctly can save the company money. It has been estimated that negativity in the workplace costs U.S. businesses $3 billion annually.
Whether it is an overall negative atmosphere or just one employee with a bad attitude, leaders should not overlook the problem of negativity among employees. The good news is there are several ways to deal with negative employees. Some steps you can take right away. In this article, we explore strategic ways to deal with negative employees and promote a positive organizational culture.
Recognizing the Problem Early On
The initial step in tackling negativity within your team is to detect the problem before it becomes a serious issue. One important role of any manager or supervisor is to maintain a pulse on the team’s mood and dynamics. This means that you should always be on the lookout for the signs of chronic negativity appearing within any one of your employees.
Early signs of a negative employee might seem easy to spot but can often be overlooked. Some include persistent criticism, reluctance to participate in team activities, or exhibiting a cynical outlook toward the company and its goals. Recognizing the signs is not about creating a surveillance culture. In reality, it is really about protecting the culture and the environment where red flags are noted before they escalate into wildfires. This might involve regular check-ins or an open-door policy that encourages employees to voice their concerns freely.
Once the negativity is recognized, it opens up avenues for intervention before it seeps into the wider team morale. Early intervention also shows a company’s commitment to maintaining a positive work environment. In the long run, this will make the other employees much happier.
Open and Honest Communication
When faced with negative employees, initiating a dialogue steeped in openness and honesty can be a transformative strategy. This conversation isn’t merely a managerial dictate but a collaborative discussion about the negativity. It provides a way for employees to air grievances. They can also share personal challenges or clarify misunderstandings. This is especially important when 2 or more employees don’t get along.
This is always a challenge for leaders as 40% of people think their managers won’t have honest conversations about work topics. That is why it is important to handle the situation in a way that will help your employees open up about what they’re feeling and have been experiencing.
During these discussions, it is important to show empathy. Your goal as a facilitator is to create a safe space where employees can express themselves without fear of judgment or retribution. It’s also a golden opportunity to convey how their negativity may be impacting the team’s synergy and the organization’s broader objectives.
As a leader, you should also be prepared to offer solutions or support. This goes double with an employee who practices negative behavior consistently. Open and honest communication serves as a bridge to mend gaps. It is a proactive approach that can transform negativity into a learning and growth opportunity.
Oftentimes, employees may not fully realize they’re being negative. They may be oblivious to the fact that their negativity is lowering employee morale. Encouraging self-awareness means helping the employee critically analyze their behavior. It also means helping them understand its origins, and work towards modification.
Gaining self-awareness is tricky. While there may be programs and training that will help, it is ultimately up to the employee to practice what they learn. This does not mean that you should stop helping them gain this type of awareness.
Offering Constructive Feedback
Constructive feedback is an insightful process that goes beyond pointing out flaws. Instead, it’s more about guiding employees to recognize areas for improvement. If done right, it also encourages them to take steps toward positive change.
To offer constructive feedback, you should adopt a balanced approach. This means coupling criticism with positive remarks. This balance makes sure that the employee doesn’t feel attacked or demotivated. Instead, the hope is that the employee sees the feedback as an opportunity for growth.
When giving feedback, provide specific examples of negative behavior. Also, explain their consequences and influence on others. This can offer clear insights into how they can adjust their approach.
Keep in mind that constructive feedback should be a two-way street. Encourage employees to share their perspectives and possibly offer explanations for their behavior. This participative approach can often reveal underlying issues that might be fueling the negativity. If it does, you now have a chance to address the situation directly at its source.
Document the Behavior
One possible costly mistake leaders make when dealing with negative employees is not documenting the behavior when necessary. Every instance of negativity, whether it manifests as relentless pessimism, hostility, or derogatory comments, should be recorded. This step is crucial to understand the depth of the issue. Not only that, it also provides a clear picture when discussing the situation with the concerned employee.
Maintaining a detailed log will enable you to pinpoint specific instances and patterns. That will in turn assist in giving constructive feedback or corrective action. It also serves as a safeguard for the company. If things don’t improve and drastic measures are necessary, the company will need to demonstrate that the management took measured and considered steps to address the issue.
Be a Source of Positivity
As a leader, your demeanor can significantly influence the workplace atmosphere. You can’t expect your employees to practice positivity if you yourself habitually practice the opposite. This means that as a leader you should be one of the main sources of positivity in your workplace. You should also be an encouraging source of optimism and appreciation.
As a leader, try to keep your own negativity at bay. Take on the challenge of not being the source of any negative habits, speech, or practices within your company. Your employees will notice if you are typically in a good mood or if people should leave you alone.
Hypocrisy is leadership poison. Leaders who practice what they preach get the most out of their team. Make sure you do all you can to build your team by displaying a positive attitude.
Allow Everyone to Voice Their Opinion
It is vital to ensure that every employee who wants to voice their opinions is heard. Encourage an open forum where individuals can voice their concerns and suggestions without fear of retaliation.
When you allow everyone to be heard, you may find that the reasons for the negativity are not what you assumed. You may even find that not all employees feel as though the employee in question is the source of negativity. Hearing views and opinions from all of the other employees will give you a panoramic view of the situation so that you can take appropriate action.
Termination as a Last Resort
In extreme cases, when all attempts to reform negative behavior fail, termination might be the only solution. You’ve got to think about the greater good of the organization. This may mean making tough decisions that will eventually make your workplace a better place to be. Unfortunately, sometimes an employee is not a good fit for the company or the culture.
Termination should always be viewed as a final measure. Before that step, be sure you’ve considered and tried all avenues of resolution. When you have persistent negativity that threatens to undermine the harmony of a team, it may become necessary to terminate employment.
Beforehand, make sure that the process is carried out with dignity and fairness. You may also need to make sure that you have other managers, an HR rep, or even a lawyer present depending on the severity of the situation. Be sure to present the well-documented record of the employee’s behavior and the steps taken to rectify it that we mentioned earlier. This approach safeguards the company and maintains a sense of justice and respect within the team.
Addressing negative employees is not just about rectifying adverse behavior; it is an opportunity to improve company culture and morale. By adopting these eight strategies, organizations can transform negative employees into positive team players. As leaders and managers work towards fostering a positive culture, they would do well to remember that a proactive and compassionate approach can often turn potential conflicts into opportunities for growth and development.