There’s nothing more toxic to a workplace than a negative attitude. As a manager, you know what that negativity looks like: snippy responses in e-mail and chat, complaints from one coworker to another, impatience with customers, aggressive body language in meetings, disengagement during team huddles, grunts and sighs of exasperation coming from someone’s desk… the list goes on.
When you see these actions manifesting in someone on your team, sirens better be going off. That negativity is going to cost you time and money. Misery loves company, and a negative attitude is highly contagious. One person’s negative attitude will have a ripple effect on the entire team, thus having a monumental impact on your business’s productivity and bottom line. This is a liability that must be addressed.
Fortunately, you can coach a negative employee and transform them into a top performer. I firmly believe that anyone can be or become an A player. It simply revolves around having a positive attitude along with a desire to learn and constantly improve.
So how do you coach a negative employee back on track? Here are five steps:
LEAD by example. As a manager, you are the pilot of your team. That team is looking to you to guide them through challenging skies and to chart a course for success. How are you handling that challenge? What is your attitude like? If someone on your team is exhibiting a negative attitude, you need to first step back and self-evaluate to determine if your own attitude is in check. You set the tone.
LEAN in. No one enjoys addressing a conflict or a problem, but as a manager, you have to lean in and practice straight talk to help get your negative employee back on track. Be mindful to practice discretion and have the conversation in an environment where the employee can feel at ease and comfortable. Clearly communicate the value of the employee, the seriousness of the negativity for the whole team, and your desire to help that employee succeed in work and life.
LISTEN to the employee. The employee is unhappy about something. And while complaining is my pet peeve and I will never condone a negative attitude, take this opportunity to push the employee to straight talk. Listen, ask questions, and listen some more. Likely you will identify an opportunity for improvement that will benefit your team and organization.
LEGITIMIZE the employee’s feelings. A simple way to show that you are understanding and hearing the employee’s concerns is by repeating back how the employee is feeling. This will also help make sure that you are both on the same page moving forward into identifying a solution.
LOOK for ways to improve and set goals. Don’t dwell on the rearview mirror; keep your focus on what is ahead. Work together with the employee to identify goals and identify action items to accomplish them. Finally, set a plan to touch base in the near future to evaluate the progress.
The reality is, as a manager, you aren’t always going to get it right, and neither are your employees. This is where that “tolerance of failure” is key. We see our failures as opportunities to grow and our failures allow us to recommit to our goals with an “I will” attitude. If everyone is on board with a positive attitude and a desire to improve, you will see that negative employee reengage and transform into an A-player on your team. However, if the negativity continues and you don’t see that desire to improve, it’s up to you as a leader to take swift action to ensure that negativity doesn’t poison the company culture and derail your team from accomplishing their goals.