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  • Writer's pictureSherri Elliott-Yeary

10 Strategies for Confronting Employees' Negative Behavior

Strategies for dealing with negative employees

As an HR professional with more than twenty years’ experience, I've observed that we seem to spend more of our time handling what I call “crisis” issues versus engagement and recognition of the employees who make up the other 98% of our workforce.

Listed below are 10 strategies for confronting employees whose negative behavior has begun to affect co-workers, the company and perhaps even customers:

Don't get drawn into the employees' negative mindset. Listen to their points, but set a time limit to the amount of time you give them to vent.

Avoid getting into an argument. Negative people thrive on the negative energy of arguments. Point out areas of agreement when possible to build rapport. Keep your cool and remember they will only feel stronger about the issue at hand if you show any negative reaction to their sharing.

Set standards. Spell out the consequences of negative behavior, such as decreased morale, customer/client issues, etc. If necessary evaluate or discipline them based on concrete on-the-job behavior, not their attitude.

Ask questions. Assist the employee in being specific about what is creating his or her negative thoughts and actions.

Try role-playing. Ask the employee to put himself in your shoes and pretend he/she has been asked to resolve the problem. That way, you will have the employee contribute his/her ideas for the best possible outcome. Involving the employee may also lead to more positive feelings about the solution or outcome since he or she had a hand in creating it.

Listen carefully. Use active listening to ensure that you're understanding the employee correctly.

Don't lower your expectations of them. A negative attitude doesn't necessarily mean a poor performer.

Empower employees. Stop the "victim" mentality from forming. Allow employees to take responsibility for "good" events, so they can make them happen again; and for the "bad" events, so they have the power to change them in the future.

Solicit feedback. Ask for employees' opinions before making major decisions that will affect them. The more you listen to employees and take an active interest in their concerns, the less likely they will complain to each other.

Hire right. Identify negative people before they're hired. During the interview, listen for feelings that "life isn't fair" in response to questions like: Have you ever felt you've been treated unfairly in the past? What were your chief concerns about management in your previous jobs? What would you have changed if you were the manager at your last job?

Important Don'ts:

Don't shower negativity with lots of attention. You're only rewarding bad behavior.

Don't stop asking them to pitch in. Ensure they are assigned tasks outside their normal job descriptions. Otherwise, you're also punishing positive (or less vocal) employees.

Don't correct them less often in order to avoid dealing with the attitude. Employees can't be expected to change for the better if they're not asked to.

Don't allow employees to get bored or complacent. A negative attitude develops easily when there's nothing to look forward to.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary, the Generational Guru and best selling author of Ties to Tattoos, Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage, is a speaker, coach and trainer in the area of Human Resources and Talent Management. Sherri specializes in helping employers maximize their human capital by collaborating across the generational gap. Her expertise in human capital management and organization includes: workforce planning, company culture, training, assessments, HRIS implementation, regulatory compliance, strategic alignment, payroll, compensation and benefit programs. Learn more at

#BehaviorModification #engagement #Intheworkplace #leadership

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