We cannot deny that there is the good and ugly in each person, and the difference is that some allow the dark side to dominate. The result is negativity. Take, for instance, Jess who strolls into the office thirty minutes late, makes her cup of coffee, and starts talking negatively about the company. Obviously, Jess is the least motivated and her negative attitude, like her coffee, if not handled well, will spill over to her team members.

Negative attitudes erode morale. It can infect the company and when escalated to unbelievable proportions, it causes damage to both staff and company. The last thing that a company would want is a team who complains ceaselessly about the management and colleagues.

Yet, some of these complainers may not upset the company’s performance and can be quite good at their jobs. But, like a virus pervading a computer program, their acidic personalities eat away at the goals – and ultimately the bottom line – of the company over time.

Photo: Karuna EM ©123RF.com

Who are these people?

They are the employees who:

  • continually find things to complain about and exaggerate the seriousness of co-workers’ mistakes
  • spread gossip and start rumours that pit employees against each other
  • undermine supervisors’ authority with a never-ending flow of criticism that stays under-the-radar so it’s rarely recognised and corrected.

Fixing an undesirable attitude

Counselling and one-to-one sessions may help to get to the root of their frustrations and address the issues. Beyond that, every manager needs a strategy for the stakes are too high to just let things slide. The message should be clear that the company does not condone toxic behaviour.

To begin with, managers should try to gather specific examples of negative things the employee has said in the past, and use those in the discussion for clarity.

Essentially, they should be specific in what they want. It’s a mistake to use general terms in a discussion about a specific behaviour problem. For example, a manager says “I don’t like your attitude. I want you to change it.” That’ may sound safe, but it could mean anything.

Instead, the manager should say “It’s not helpful the way you talk about our customers behind their backs. It poisons the attitude of the others in customer service. From now on, if you can’t say something supportive of a customer, please don’t say anything at all.”

Handling confrontation

Once a manager has gotten through discussing the specific behaviours, it’s likely the other person is going to feel the need to blow off steam and maybe even mount a defence. To avoiding having people feel like they are on the witness stand, let them rant a bit.

It’ll help them feel like they are being heard – because they are. Then steer the conversation back to the results.

Try to use “we.” Work to get across the notion that the issue is a problem for everyone concerned. A manager can start by saying “We have a problem” or “We need to change.” This helps the person realize the behaviour is important.

Stay away from finger-pointing and refrain from overusing “you” Using it continually in a negative way kills the conversation.  Putting all the responsibility on the employee is a conversational black hole that’s impossible to escape. The constant use of the word you, as in “You have a bad attitude and everyone knows it” is an invitation for a fight. Instead, try “We need to talk about your attitude.”

Avoid “however” and “but.” Some managers believe that if they lead with a compliment, it’s easier to wade into the problem. That conversation looks something like this: “You’ve done a good job, but …” and then the manager lowers the boom. That often angers people and leaves them thinking, “Why can’t he ever just say something positive and leave it at that?”

Consider substituting “and” for “but” and “however,” and the conversation is likely to go smoother, as in: “You’re doing a really good job and we need to talk about how to get you to show more respect for customers.”

Don’t feel as if you have to fill the silence. In a tense situation, a manager may be tempted to fill every gap in the conversation. Don’t. Stay silent when there’s a lull. Obligate the other person to fill in the silence.

It’s surprising the amount of information a manager can get without ever asking a question — just by remaining silent.


Adapted with permission from HRMorning.com and CatalystMediaMarketing.com



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