Negative Co-Workers

It would be an easy life if all your employees were positive, engaged and productive, all day everyday but this is not always the case. If you manage people, you will eventually encounter a situation in which you need to manage a negative person—for the sake of your other employees and the team. Have you ever come across a negative employee? What impact did they have on you and their colleagues?

A negative employee can infect a team and rub off on other people. People can often feel like they are treading on eggshells. There are simple steps you can take before the individual or your working environment becomes toxic.

Top Tips

Always start the conversation openly. Explain that you need to have a difficult conversation with them and acknowledge the awkwardness.

Inform the employee about the impact their negativity is having on colleagues and the department. Try and give specific examples if you can. This does become complicated if someone has raised his or her concerns with you in confidence. Often it is better to try and observe their behaviour yourself if you can, so you can give your own comments and perception of thing.

The employee will often be surprised about the impact their negative attitude is having on their colleagues. People are often upset to hear this and wouldn’t normally try and behave like this intentionally.

Don’t take the employee’s negative words or attitude personally. Sometimes the comments are personal, but it is important to try and establish what the actual problem is, the negativity can be clouding the real issue.

Ask the employee what is causing their negativity at work. Listen to the employees complaints and concerns until you’re certain that the employee feels heard out and listened to. Sometimes people repeat negative sentiments because they don’t feel as if you have really heard them. Make sure that you have actively listened. Let people rant … a little. This can be cathartic.

Ask the employee if something negative is happening in their personal life- the person may not have made the link between work and home and the impact this might be having. You could suggest a couple of days holiday to take the time for them to go and get things sorted if this is going to help.

Be mindful of what is said. Often these conversations can open a can of worms and you may find that you discover little niggles that have built up over time or it is a more serious situation, for example they are being bullied. Always ask how the employee wishes for you to deal with this, informally or formally.

Focus on the positive aspects of their performance and the contributions the individual brings to the work setting, not the negativity. Help the employee build their self-image and capacity to contribute.

Remind your employee that they control their attitude and that complaining, and fault-finding is a choice. When they walk through the door each morning, they are choosing their behaviour and demeanour.

Keep it results-oriented. A phrase like “I’m bringing this up because it’s important you address this issue to be successful in your job” is helpful. Also make the employee part of the solution, both of you need to find ways to work through this problem. Try to use “we” and avoid “you” which will help the employee feel supported.

Document your conversation so you can refer to it if you need to.

Keep the employees trust by delivering on what you have promised and where possible and specifically requested keep the meeting confidential, unless there is anything that needs to be discussed with other managers.

The above seems like a lot to consider but you’ll be surprised how naturally the conversation comes to you. Often it is worth putting the effort to deal with things rather than letting them rumble on and potentially escalate into a formal grievance.

If you have a negative employee that you would like to discuss with us or would like some help with a similar situation, please do not hesitate to give one of Consultants a call who would be happy to help.