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How to deal with negative employees

Jun 21, 2022

A negative employee can sour the atmosphere of a workplace. A negative employee, as referenced here, is someone who either brings a negative attitude to work or someone who, for whatever reason, makes others feel negatively. This has a ripple effect, and if it's not properly handled, can result in a toxic or hostile work environment. It only takes one person.

For example, if an unhappy employee is constantly complaining about the work they are doing, the people they work with, or the workplace itself, that negativity is then shared. Other workers who maybe didn't think those things before, might now at least consider that the negativity is correct. Whereas a positive employee, someone who makes people feel included, is constantly looking to improve, and is generally happy at work, will also make others feel the same.

So how does one ensure that they are facilitating a positive working environment, and what do you do about negative employees who might have an effect on that?

First, evaluate your own attitude and approach to work. Are you bringing in your best self every day (or at least trying to)? When problems arise, are you quick to panic or express frustration, or do you maintain a sense of calm and authority? Have you formed relationships with the people you work with? As a leader in the workplace, people look to you and mirror your behavior. Set a positive example.

The next approach should be to hear the negative employee out, per Indeed. Allow them to air their grievances with a supervisor or manager (rather than other team members). As a supervisor or manager, you should be willing to listen and try to help resolve the things that are having a negative effect on the employee. Are they unhappy with schedule? Pay? Perhaps conditions? Take these into consideration and do what you can to fix them. If it's something that can't be fixed immediately, put a plan into action so that the employee can see you're trying to make improvements. This goes a long way for many people. Having a safe space for people to approach you and express themselves will often keep them from complaining to everyone else and creating a negative atmosphere.

To avoid waiting until negative behavior is in effect to schedule these kinds of meetings, hold regular one-on-ones with employees.

Finally, consider how to motivate employees. Motivated employees who are looking to grow, improve, and move up in the company are typically not those who are stuck in a negative rut. Forbes suggests pointing out an employee's strengths and how they can use them to move up.

If none of this works, consider reaching out to human resources. They may be able to help assist with more specific ways to deal with the negative worker, or they can help determine if they're creating a hostile work environment and more extreme measures need to be taken. 

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