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How to Cure Employee Negativity

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Inspiring excitement in some employees is next to impossible. These employees meet every announcement, regardless of how potentially thrilling, with negativity -- or, at best, a disinterested “meh.” If you have one of these workers on your payroll, it is important that you take steps to change her attitude. If you don't, her negativity could spread like a plague through your workforce, transforming once happy employee into negative drones.

Show Appreciation

Your employees won’t know how grateful you are for their efforts if you don’t actively convey your appreciation. Recognize your employees regularly and for a variety of things, from the successful completion of a project to something as simple as keeping organized work files. Put a bit more effort into recognizing your negative workers than the already-happy ones as negative workers have the biggest need for a boost. Just be careful that you don't ignore your contented workers altogether or they too will become negative.

Find the Problem

Some employees are naturally prone to negativity. However, when an employee is constantly negative there is usually some root cause. Dig for this root. Ask your employee probing questions that can help unravel some of his issues. Anne Loehr, author of “Managing the Unmanageable: How to Motivate Even the Most Unruly Employee,” suggests asking open-ended, short questions. For example, you might ask if your employee is frustrated with his job activity, and why. Or, find out if his skills are being underutilized. Be clear about the negativity you have observed and work with the employee to come up with an actionable solution.

Explain the Issue

Your employee’s negativity can have an impact on his co-workers, but he might not realize it. Tell your employee that you are worried about the effect his negativity has on the team. Remind him that he is not an island and that his actions and attitude can have an impact on others. This way, your employee might better understand that your attempts to end his negativity aren’t a personal attack but instead an effort to keep the work environment positive and productive.

Develop Employees

Motivate your negative employees by opening their eyes to exciting industry developments. Send them to professional development classes and seminars, especially those you think will be engaging to these workers. Have the employees come back and share their experiences. Show them you think they are valuable team members by giving them a bigger stake in the organization's progress and success.