Most companies will experience negative employees in some capacity at some point or another, which can have an impact on workplace culture.
This is not always reflective of the business involved. Workplace negativity can take many different forms in employees: rejecting ideas, dismissing improvement plans, complaining about their work or acting in a hostile manner to others in their immediate team or across the wider business.
Here's an informative guide on how you can tackle the issue head-on, without offending:
Find out WHY they’re being negative
We’re living in a time where employee wellbeing is everything. Yes, ideally we’d like to think we work in - and encourage - an open and honest workplace, where employees can approach their managers about any personal or work issues and every conversation is judgement-free and easy for someone to approach. But are we? Do employees feel like they can talk to their leaders?
Having a conversation with the person in question, and finding out whether there is something in particular that is affecting their behaviour at work, could easily explain a lot about how and why their behaviour has changed. This can lead to a far quicker resolution than burying your head in the sand and hoping that they suddenly wake up one day with the world’s sunniest disposition. Communication is key here and tackling the problem head-on(with the right guidance from HR) can often be a very productive way of shutting down negative behaviour before it’s even really begun.
Work out WHO their behaviour is impacting
Is it more junior team members that are bearing the brunt of this person’s behaviour, or those who work in a certain department? By finding out where their negativity is being spread to, you can do one of two things(or both, if you’re lucky):
1. Ensure the employee is not discriminating against anyone (especially as this can be grounds for bullying)
2. Make sure their negativity is not being absorbed and passed on to others.
If their behaviour is having a detrimental impact on others, being able to communicate this is a tangible way of showing them how their actions are affecting those around them, helping to demonstrate why their aura – or “vibe” – is important to those they work with.
Investigate HOW it is being passed on to others
When the employee is being seen as negative - are their points actually valid or is it that their approach and delivery could do with some work?
Consider how their communication is being received as negative: are they sending blunt emails or is it that their verbal interactions are being received as inflexible? It could be that they’ve never been spoken to about their approach and a small adjustment to the way they deliver their ideas could result in a far better atmosphere within the team, and overall relationship with their colleagues. Ensure you have specific examples of where they’ve been viewed negatively so you are able to take a tailored approach to make improvements.
Keep track of WHEN their outbursts or peaks in negativity occur
By monitoring when there appears to be more negativity being exerted, you may be able to work out a pattern in the employee’s behaviour and therefore, get to the bottom of what it is that is triggering their down points.
Are they particularly negative towards the month-end when the workload peaks? Do they put down others’ work shortly following their own review meetings? Are they showing signs of negativity when their sales targets aren’t being met? Whatever the evidence shows, it might be worth keeping a log of when and in what form this occurs, in order to be able to assess how you can help them through these tougher points in their work cycle.
Work out WHAT the solution is and tackle this with the employee together
The most important part of this is ensuring that you have guidance from HR so you can monitor, log and follow this process in the most efficient way possible - whilst in keeping with workplace legislation.
Speak to your HR department and make sure you are taking the right approach, and then discuss the problems, gaining the employee’s input on how they may be resolved. This is an opportunity for you to give your suggestions, but also allow them to feel part of the solution, rather than just the problem.
Set clear expectations about WHERE you go from here and the consequences if there is no sign of improvement
It could be that this person is behaving in a way that you personally(or your team) don’t approve of, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a bad or disruptive employee. Have you set clear expectations of your team and their attitude and behaviour? By setting clearly defined standards, your chances of creating a more harmonious working environment - where everyone is happy and productive - are likely to improve significantly. Explain to the employee how you feel their behaviour is being received negatively. How it is impacting their own work and that of those around them. Give them the opportunity to improve, but explain that, in the event of no improvement, there will be consequences in order to protect both them and the rest of the business.
Finally, whatever you do, do not make excuses for their behaviour. There have long been approaches taken - especially in an agency environment, where money-making often breeds monsters – that “that’s just such-and-such’s personality”, or “you know what so-and-so is like”, purely because they’re a high performer and their behaviour should be allowed because of it. But this is damaging for the team around them and can be seen as an acceptable way to behave by other employees, if not nipped in the bud. Knowing when to say goodbye to a bad egg is just as important as knowing when you need to hire someone new, and since we’re on the subject of hiring…