21st February 2014
We had an enquiry from a Staff Squared customer the other day about a problem they were having with their negative staff attitude ruining the overall happiness of their team. Given this is a problem that all teams can suffer from, we thought we would share our thoughts with a wider audience in the hope that it’s useful for you other managers out there.
Their question to us was:
I am a new manager in an organisation in New York, and the people I’m managing make me want to jump out of my window (we’re on the 5th floor!). How do I find out where the source of this negativity is coming from and fix it as quickly as possible?
In our experience the best way to handle negativity in any team is to understand the potential reasons for the negativity, and then address accordingly. Here’s a few common scenarios we’ve encountered over the years and how to address.
Are your staff being paid a fair wage? If everybody feels underpaid (and therefore undervalued) it’s unlikely any amount of good management is going to make them happier. There are plenty of ways to sanity check what your staff are being paid against the market. Look at job listing websites to see what similar jobs in the area are advertised at. Alternatively there are websites that you can check average salaries against and Google will help you to find them. For example, if you search for “Average .Net software developer salary London UK” you’re likely to find useful salary comparison websites.
Does the work that your staff are doing suck? If the job your staff are performing is menial and boring with no chance of a promotion you either need to find ways to make their job more dynamic and offer up room for promotion, or alternatively you need to be prepared to manage a team with a high staff turnover.
How do your customers treat your staff? Even the most thick skinned of staff will succumb to bad habits and general unhappiness if they’re constantly being hit with verbal sticks by unhappy customers. What policies, processes or perhaps training can you implement in order to help reduce negative customer engagement? Or perhaps you might need to address issues outside of your team in terms of how the overall company treats its customers.
Is the decor of the workplace perhaps too shabby and not enough chic? If the desks and chairs are broken, the computers are 10 years old, and the paint is peeling off the walls, your staff won’t be climbing over one another to get to work in the morning. Easy options include plants, posters (but please not those “motivational” posters unless you’re doing so with a complete sense of irony). A coat of new paint is always a cheap way to spruce up a room. When was the last time your team were treated to a pizza for lunch, or perhaps some snacks and coffee?
Is the company itself rotten? If everybody knows that they’re aboard the modern day equivalent of the Titanic they’ll be spending more time screaming and looking for a life raft than focusing on their work. If the company is actually sinking you’ve got a tough job on your hands to convince people otherwise. Perhaps your team can help to turn the business around but you’ll need to have enough leverage to make such a bold statement.
Did your predecessor do a bad job of managing staff? If your staff have dealt with mushroom management (kept in the dark and fed shit), they won’t trust their new boss by default. You’ll need to invest time in team engagement, empathise with them and lead by example in order to demonstrate positive outcomes as a result of good management.
Of course some people are just “negative nancies”. These people need to be met with on a one-to-one basis and you need to attempt to understand what their issues are and if you can fix them.
However tempting it might be fear management by singling people out or firing people will not yield long term results. You’re much better off trying to understand the root cause of the issues at hand and working back from there. Good luck!