Human Resources

Negative Attitudes In The Workplace: How to Deal

In every workplace, there are negative attitudes that eat away at the productivity of everyone associated with the company. These people may go unidentified for some time, all the while causing major damage.  Quite often, they’re good at their jobs. But like an infection, their attitudes can spread rapidly without major symptoms until the entire company is in jeopardy.

neg attitudesFinding the Problems

Look for workers who exhibit the following traits;

  • Complain constantly
  • Exaggerate co-workers’ mistakes
  • Start rumors and spread gossip
  • Consistently find problems with the ideas of others
  • Refuse to cooperate with changes made in the workplace
  • Set expectations for others that are higher than those set for themselves
  • Challenge a manager’s authority in front of others

Once managers identify the bad attitudes which may be dragging everyone down, they must have the tools necessary to deal with these negative Nellies and the effects they have had on others.

Finding the Answers

What now? Instead of going head on into the “you have a bad attitude” script, take a minute to think through the situation by answering a few important questions.

  • What effect has this behavior had on productivity or morale?
  • Is the negative behavior new to this person?
  • How do this person’s actions differ from the expectations set for overall employee behavior?
  • What’s the effect of this employee’s behavior on those with whom s/he works closely?
  • How may the workplace change if a more positive attitude was had by all?

Once the answers to these questions have been analyzed carefully, it’s time to act.

A good first step is to, review or establish a policy that states negative attitudes and blatant refusal to cooperate with coworkers will not be tolerated. This sets expectations under a solid structure. But, managers also need be taught to view these conversations as coaching opportunities and given realistic advice for the day to day challenges of those who will inevitably not comply with the positivity policy.

12 Tips for a Successful Coaching Session

  1. Do not delay this difficult conversation. It will only make things worse. Handle confrontation with a steady kindness while remaining firm in the resolve to fix the problem.
  2. Acknowledge the awkwardness. Humanize the conversation by letting employees know they’re providing difficult to discuss feedback.
  3. Keep it results-oriented. Remind them this coaching session is designed to better their chance of being successful.
  4. Start with the positives. Begin with the things about the work this person performs and positive outcomes experienced in the past. Move to the negatives using the “next time” or “moving forward” approach. Stress the positive changes that can happen when the person changes the negative behavior. Also stress the negative outcomes if the person does not make any changes to their attitude.
  5. Allow the employee to speak first. Ask the person how they view their working environment and allow them to address their own positives and negatives. Encourage them to develop an introspective approach to dealing with others.
  6. Spell it out. Avoid using vague, open terms to discuss a specific behavior such as, “I don’t like your attitude. You need to change it.” Try instead, “When you are negative towards co-workers and customers, drive and productivity is diminished. Looking for the negative aspects of a situation is discouraging to your co-workers. In the future, please be supportive and refrain from negative comments.” Give examples of specific behaviors the employee has displayed for clarification.
  7. Allow employees to vent. After this conversation, most likely, the employee will need to give his defense. They are not on trial. Hear them out and take into consideration what they are saying. Keep the conversation on track and be positive. This will be a big help in the overall outcome.
  8. Use words like “us” and “we”. Avoid words like “I”. Don’t make it personal. Start by saying “We have a problem.” or “We need to make a change.” This helps avoid finger pointing.
  9. Don’t point the blame by using “you”. Dumping all the blame and responsibility on the employee will not produce positive results. It’s very easy to turn this conversation into an argument. Such as phrases like “You are a problem and everyone agrees.” Instead, try “We need to talk about your attitude.” It will give the notion that we are in it together. Not to single the employee out.
  10. Try not to use “however” and “but.” Some managers think that starting with a compliment will head off the initial defensiveness. Example: “You’re great to work with, but …” and then the manager expresses their concern. That will leave the employee thinking you’re passive- aggressive. “He says I’m great but then totally destroys my confidence.” Try using “and” instead of “however” or “but”. Say “You’re doing a good job and we there are a few things we need to work on.”
  11. Let there be silence. Often in tense situations, a manager might try to make it less awkward by filling the silence. Let it be. Make the other person fill it in. A manager can get a lot out of someone just by being silent.
  12. Remember everyone is dealing with something. Prying into the personal life of an employee is rarely appropriate. However, managers should remember that this person may be dealing with issues at home that are causing depression or discouragement. Perhaps their childhood was difficult. Interaction with others on a positive level may be inhibited by past experience. While, we cannot allow certain behaviors to continue no matter what the reason, it is good to remember that we are all dealing with something.

Train your new supervisors today with The New Supervisor’s Personal Checklist for  Success!

Until Next Time, Be Audit-Secure!

Lisa Smith


Lisa Smith is CEO of Andere Development, LLC and Chief Content Developer at BeAuditSecure.com. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, listen to her Small Business Spoonfuls Podcast, and find more from her in Audit-Secure Authority at BeAuditSecure.com.

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