It’s doubtful there’s an employer that hasn’t had to deal with negative employees. Without any intervention, negative employees can quickly cause a decline in morale, and the entire workplace might be affected, even increasing turnover.
Mitigating Impact of Negative Employees
Here are some things employers can do:
- The first step is to know there’s a problem. Consider monitoring areas where employees communicate, such as message boards and social media. Encourage people to report problems either in person or anonymously. (However, be sure not to discourage employees from discussing workplace issues, as is their right under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).)
- Talk with negative employees to discover the root issues. It’s possible their complaint is based on a real issue that can be solved, even if their reaction is outsized.
- Pay attention to employee complaints. If complaints go unaddressed, negative feelings may grow stronger and lead to future problems.
- Ensure employees get the recognition they deserve. Negativity can come from simple things like feeling underappreciated.
- Ensure employees have the opportunity to bring their ideas and concerns to those in leadership positions. It’s important employees have an outlet to express things and be heard. It’s even more important for those who receive this input to follow up on it, take steps to make changes where possible, and explain why a change isn’t possible if that’s the case. Helping employees feel heard can go a long way toward minimizing negativity in general.
- Consider providing training to employees on conflict resolution. Sometimes small things get out of control because one or more people don’t have the tools and experience to constructively address the issue.
- Train management not to ignore issues to avoid conflict. The problems rarely go away; avoidance often makes things worse.
- When dealing with someone negative, use specific examples of the behavior you’d like to see change.
- Train managers to take an active role with employees. Getting to know them can help them recognize when outside stressors are causing a change in behavior. Also train managers on how to recognize actions that demonstrate someone is dealing with too much stress.
- Consider offering employee benefits that can help your workers deal with outside stressors. For example, an employee assistance program (EAP) can be an outlet for those undergoing problems outside the workplace and can help them address these issues before they impact their work.
- Take proactive steps to keep the work environment positive, like providing food or other incentives to employees who boost morale.
What has your experience been when dealing with negativity in the workplace? What else have you done to ensure it doesn’t spread and bring down the whole team?