Getting Employees Out of A Negative Mindset

by Mike O'Neill

Workplace negativity can be destructive to any business. It is one of the most challenging tasks of being a manager. It’s essential to your business to keep employee morale up, negate any toxic behavior, and combat high turnover. 

Employees who have a negative mindset affect their coworkers and affect customer satisfaction. An employee’s negative mindset can damage your company’s reputation and legitimacy to other external stakeholders. 

This article will discuss the signs of a negative mindset and how to address an employee in order to change their perspective and encourage positivity in the workplace.

Signs of a Negative Employee Mindset

The signs of a negative mindset can start as innocuous. Still, as time goes on and the problem isn’t resolved, these behaviors can have a devastating effect on employee morale and customer satisfaction. Some signs of a negative mindset are:

  • Constant complaining
  • A drop in productivity
  • Not contributing to the team
  • Showing up late/Leaving early

These are just a few examples of a negative mindset, but the most critical thing is to address it as quickly as possible.

Look Inward First

Look inward first and check any biases at the door. Don’t make assumptions about why the person is acting as they are. Reflect on who they are, what is coming across as unfavorable, and be honest with yourself about the role you may be playing in their perceived negativity.

Ask yourself, is it what they’re saying that’s negative, or how they’re saying it. The employee may be truly negative, but analyze if it’s just a miscommunication issue or just their communication style. 

Once you evaluate if you’re judging the person on how they deliver feedback, or if it’s the feedback itself, you can find the best approach to discuss the issues with them.

Gather the Facts & Document Issues

As the leader of your team, you should keep a file for each employee. Include notes on what they do well and where they need improvement. You can also note here when you’ve discussed both good and bad behavior.

Examples of acceptable documentation are:

  • Be accurate, provide facts - keep opinions out of the documentation.
  • Be concise - don’t generalize or sound subjective. Keep it specific to the employee.
  • Be specific - provide specific examples of both good and bad behavior or any other issues.
  • Be professional - omit emotions from notes and follow company policies on behavior and conduct.

Once you record the employee’s positive and negative actions, you can form an approach of helpfulness and concern, rather than accusatory.

Talk to the Employee

Each employee is unique. When talking to them, it’s vital to consider this - realizing that bad behavior may result from stress or personal issues gives you direction on approaching the employee in a way that doesn’t come across as an attack.

Discuss how their behavior affects the team, company, and relationships with supervisors and coworkers. Outline your company policies regarding personal behavior and coworker interactions. You want your employees to be successful, consider reminding them of your employee assistance program. 

Even though each employee is unique, how you deal with negative employees should be consistent. For example, if Sally gets out of line, but you let Robert get away with the same behavior, it gives the impression of favoritism.

Give Specific Feedback

When sitting down to talk to an employee about their behavior, set boundaries for how you’d like your team to work together and provide guidance. Instead of jumping on them with comments like, “You’re not doing this right,” focus on what is allowed.  

Describe the situation, point out how their actions and behavior affect coworkers and the business, and what you’d like to see going forward.

Get to the root of the problem by asking probing questions to understand their perspective. Ask if there’s anything you can do as a manager to make the situation better. 

Encourage them to be optimistic and forward-thinking and limit them from airing out complaints. Find out what is working for them and how they’d like to change for the better if they could.

Set the Example

If you’re not following company guidelines and modeling the behavior you want to see, employees become disenfranchised and won’t follow the guidelines independently. Consult the company handbook and make sure you’re following the conduct guidelines, adjust your behavior if necessary. 

When a conflict does happen, coach employees through the communication process and practice what they’re going to say. Let them know that the person exhibiting the behavior may not realize they’re obnoxious or disruptive to coworkers - guide employees on how to express their frustration and positively resolve the conflict.

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