In conducting exit interviews, I am sure to use a spirit of open and honest feedback with the goal of continuous improvement. As I reflect back on some of the interviews I’ve done over the years, I recognize that negativity has been forefront in the ultimate departure of some former employees. Negativity doesn’t make a bad employee, it just provides a challenge to their role and to management. There is definitely credibility to the fact that some employees will hit their ceiling and likely no longer be a fit in the culture we are building and strengthening. However, negativity affects how employees interact with their peers, how they view the company goals, how they react to challenges, and how they view the culture of the company – and can absolutely affect the role they fill.

If you manage people then you will eventually encounter a negative person. This is not the most pleasant aspect of a manager’s job and unfortunately can not be avoided. The rest of your team will be let down when negativity is ignored or not discussed. Managing negative people is not only possible, but it is also rewarding when you can help the employee turn the negativity around. The best approach is to not let the negativity get started in the first place, but if it starts to destruct your team then it’s time for some coaching!

5 Tips for Coaching a Negative Employee

Communicate to Educate

Open communication is always the most constructive way to approach conflict. We use “straight talk” at PFSbrands and find that our culture embraces the ability to be able to talk “straight” without ridicule in regard to any situation. As a coach or mentor, you must be able to communicate how negativity is affecting not only the employee, but also the team, the company, and possibly other relationships. Negativity is contagious and it spreads like wildfire. Be courageous enough to have a straight talk conversation before a problems gets out of control.

It’s Not an Attack

It’s important to not take an employee’s negativity personally. Being defensive and abrasive is not constructive. Dealing with difficult people is uncomfortable for all parties, but mostly the negativity is not directed at you. The employee is unhappy with his/her life, her work, or something different altogether. Listen to the employee’s concerns – you may be able to help solve legitimate workplace concerns.

Positivity Breeds Positivity

While emphasizing the need for a positive attitude moving forward, focus on the encouraging aspects of his/her performance and the contributions they bring to the company. Be optimistic and reflect his/her capacity to contribute. Set goals for change and continue to help build a positive self-image.

Time for a Game Plan

Focus on creating solutions with an action plan. Action goes hand in hand with our goal setting beliefs at PFSbrands. Create options and goals for how the employee can create more positivity moving forward. By writing down actionable goals, the employee is much more likely to accomplish it. Ask how you can help and work together to solve this problem.

This Chapter isn’t Closed

Follow up is very important. Schedule a meeting to discuss progress. Lead by example and demonstrate positive behavior with all employees. Recognize and praise positive improvements and positive attitude. Don’t forget to write down your follow up meetings to continue to document the improvement process.

Problems and setbacks are inevitable in business, but each one can be a learning experience. As a leader you are responsible for strengthening a positive working culture that builds and strengthens with time.

As I continue to reflect, I realize that if an employee is a good cultural fit for our company, then I view any negativity as a challenge. A challenge to make a difference in that employee’s life, a challenge to make me a better leader, and a challenge to keep making our company a great place to work.

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