How to Constructively Channel Negative Employee Behavior


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

All companies have a negative employee or two but there are ways to constructively channel this behavior to benefit the wider company.

Article 3 Minutes
How to Constructively Channel Negative Employee Be

Every team has them; the employee that is constantly unhappy regardless of what you or the company do to try and support or engage them. Many companies will try to isolate these individuals, out of fear that they will pass on their negativity to the rest of the team.

But instead of cutting them off, is there a way you can effectively channel their disruptive behavior without completely pandering to them?

Use them for talking points

A negatively-minded employee doesn't necessarily have to be a 'toxic' one. Even if you feel as though you've addressed their points or concerns multiple times, having them contribute to group discussions about the company and/or team can be an effective way of channeling their pessimistic attitude.

Having regular team-level meetings gives them a forum in which they feel comfortable to raise their issues. This gives their manager the opportunity to address the problems head on and with complete transparency. Organizations often think that they need to have answers or solutions to an employee's issue before they can talk to them about it, but this can lead to people thinking their voices go unheard.

Even if you don't have a solution worked out, discuss the issues they - and anyone else - raises and talk about potential ways to resolve the problem, as well as previous unsuccessful methods that have been tried.

Not only does this give the employee concerned a platform to air their concerns, but it also allows the rest of the team to see such issues being openly and freely discussed, rather than ignored or brushed under the carpet.

Use their strengths

Their negative attitude may be the result of feeling chastised in their role, meaning you have a perfectly capable and talented employee who you're not supporting in the right way. Identify their core strengths and put them in a role that utilizes them. This doesn't have to be a change of position, for example, if they're unhappy with their working environment put them in charge of managing the office.

You and their Manager may have been misinterpreting drive, ambition and actually caring about what type of company they work for, as negative behavior. Giving them the tools and resources they need to channel this into something more positive and help form the team/company they want could transition their day-to-day attitude.

Finding the areas in which they perform strongly will change the way you talk about them with their Manager or co-workers. You will start to discuss their positive attributes and soon see the areas where their skills, experience and expertise can be used, as well as their ability to identify standards that are falling short.

Combine this with a clear progression and goals system and you may find that most 'negative' employees become team players that have the organization's objectives at heart.

Use them to troubleshoot

If you have someone on the team that is willing to call people out and identify where your organization may be falling below standards, then why not use them to improve? Even if they're the only person talking about it, it's unlikely that no one else feels the same or is at least aware of the problem they're vocalizing.

An open-door workplace, where employees are free to discuss company policies and/or methods without fear of being reprimanded will create an open culture with employees who feel they are understood and listened to.

So when your negative employee next raises an issue, speak to their manager and other department heads to find out whether this is a problem that is affecting other people. It may be that they're just letting off steam because they've had a bad day, but it could also uncover a problem that is costing you either in terms of morale or actual revenue.

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