24th October 2013
You know that one person at work who’s always making negative comments? They moan that their boss is an idiot, the company’s going down the toilet and, even when you’re having a good day, they still manage to come along and drop a big negativity bomb all over it? Well, this blog is about them and how to make sure their defeatist views and obstructive antics don’t rub off on those around them. After all, a happy workforce is likely to be far more productive than one that’s counting down to the apocalypse.
It’s important to remember that behaviour breeds behaviour. In the same way that a smile is infectious, so are the constant mutterings of a disgruntled employee. Employees that are usually upbeat and positive can be transformed into office activists overnight simply by working in close proximity to a negative co-worker. Failing to tackle the problem puts out the wrong message and swift action is needed if workplace morale is to be preserved.
So, what steps do we need to take at work to nip negativity in the bud?
Tackle the problem head on – Speak with the negative employee at the earliest opportunity to establish the facts. What has happened to make them feel the way they do? Has their attitude been brought about by a workplace issue or is the problem a personal one? Sometimes just offering a friendly, listening ear can help improve an employee’s outlook. Be attentive and positive. Tackling negativity with negativity is unlikely to encourage improvement.
Act – If you have identified that there is a legitimate workplace issue that has contributed to the employee’s less than jovial demeanour, deal with it. Failing to act on a genuine issue will only make the problem worse and could have long term implications for the stability of the workforce. If you do not feel that the employee’s complaints are justified then tell them so. Persistent negativity that impacts on employee performance is a work behaviour that may require disciplinary action.
Listen to your staff – Whilst some negativity in the workplace is caused by external factors it is often an indication of a deeper lying problem within the business. Stay in tune with what your staff are thinking by taking time to chat with them, even if it’s just for a moment at the water cooler. This will allow you to gauge the morale levels of the workforce and deal with potential issues before they escalate.
Employee surveys and an effective communication structure are two excellent ways to glean the information that you need.
A famous person once said, ‘If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, prepare to be fired with enthusiasm.’ Probably not one for the company handbook but apt nonetheless.
David is a Human Resources Consultant at Let’s Talk People.
David has been providing HR & employment law advice to business owners and company directors for 8 years. He is a qualified member of The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.