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How do you deal with a negative employee?

Most of us have encountered an employee who is never happy.  For this employee, there is something wrong with every initiative that comes out, pay and/or benefits are never good enough, no one works as hard as they do, and the list goes on.  As a manager, how do you deal with a negative employee?  What should you do to change the attitude?

First of all, if this is a change that’s recently occurred with the employee and/or is out of character, inquire as to whether or not they’re okay or maybe need some help.  Mental health issues can come up at any time and employees should be supported where possible.  Have information regarding any company benefits that may be available for them to utilize or area resources to see if that will help.

But if it’s not a mental health issue and more of a personality trait/work ethic that has been ongoing, you shouldn’t just let it slide.  Often this person has some sort of work knowledge, productivity or skill that is appreciated, and managers don’t want to lose that, even at the expense of employee morale.  But if that’s the case, managers and other employees are getting the short end of the stick.  Negativity will cost companies good, productive employees and does not pay off in the long run.

Have you ever worked with someone negative?  How did it make you feel?  Was it motivational or frustrating?  Were you encouraged to work harder or simply motivated to stay away?  And what sort of example does this set for other employees?

If you’ve never had a discussion with the employee about their attitude, that’s a first step.  Apologize to them for letting it go on as long as it has.  Let them know you accept responsibility for that.  But make it clear that now is the time for change.  Maybe there’s something that can be done to make it better.  If not, or they’re unwilling to change, start the process of saying goodbye, however that looks in your organization. 

Why would someone want to work in your organization if they’re unhappy?  And why would you want them there?

So the way to deal with a negative employee is simply not to.  Have an honest discussion to see if you can determine the root of the problem and if there are solutions.  If there is nothing that can be done to fix it, then they aren’t helping themselves, you or the company.  Start working on an exit plan for them in hopes that you will all have a better future.

Dog with a headache compress
Dog with headache


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