Leadership Living Well

Addressing Negativity

Negativity: it’s something that happens in all people and in all places of work from time to time. As a leader, it’s crucial that you know how to deal with it on your team (and within yourself) or it will spread and cause major problems.

If you’ve had to address negativity in the past, tell us how it went in the comments! Here’s some tips for the future:

Consider the Scope of Negativity
Depending on the situation, it may be better to address negativity with a large group or it might be better to talk to one or two instigators. Take time to think about the dynamics on your team, how addressing negative behavior in a certain way will impact your goals, and then act accordingly.

Take Time to Identify The Roots of Negativity
While you definitely do need to address negative behavior, sometimes there’s more going on under the surface than meets the eye. If you have one employee who is consistently being negative, perhaps ask them if they feel comfortable talking about what’s going on their life. Often anger and negative behavior are secondary emotions are there’s something else going on. If it’s personal, there isn’t much that you can do besides show them you care. If it’s professional, listen to their issues see if anything can be done to address them.

Consider Your Own Actions
If you’re jokingly complaining about things, those who follow you will see what you’re doing and possibly mimic it. Remember that as the leader, you’re the thermostat to your team’s temperature. Model behavior that you expect to see.

Prepare Your Team Ahead of Time
No one likes feeling like their leader is their friend and “on their side” only to have that person come down on them without warning. You need to be talking to the people you lead on a regular basis about your role as a leader and to prepare them that you will address problems with them before it becomes a problem. That will make any conversations you have much easier and less stressful to you and your employee.

Be Direct About the Problem and Know How to End a Conversation
When you’re addressing negative behavior with someone, don’t beat around the bush. It creates an awkward and confusing situation that will frustrate both of you. Instead, be very clear and say something like, “Thank you for coming in today, I wanted to address something that has come to my attention. . . .”

When the conversation is over, it’s also important that the person you’ve spoken with doesn’t feel scolded or like they’re in trouble–if you want to keep them on your team. The way to do that is to say something like, “Alright, I feel like we’re both on the same page. Now, this is over and I want you to know that I have every bit of confidence in you and your abilities going forward. As long as this doesn’t become a habit, we have no issues here.” Make sure to leave them with an encouraging word.

Know When to Call It Quits
While firing someone for a negative attitude isn’t a good first option, if you’ve had several conversations with this person and you’ve made it clear that their attitude needs to change, and you’ve given final warning, it may be time to let that person find success somewhere else.

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