Everyone is capable of a whiny day. When circumstances feel overwhelming or hopeless, even a sunny person can lapse into whining. An employee with overall attitude of negativity is another thing altogether. The knee-jerk reaction might be to conclude that this “Debbie/Don Downer” needs to leave the organization.
Gwen Moran, writing at Fast Company.com, recommends a less impulsive approach. The first question to ask is, “What impact is the behavior having?” If the sourness doesn’t impact the person’s or other’s results, then it isn’t worth confronting. She also notes that some quiet people can be perceived as negative in comparison to their effusive teammates. Don’t mistake introversion for negativity.
If the unenthusiastic behavior is affecting results, don’t start by policing the behavior itself. This approach may backfire. Get to the root of the problem by having a conversation (or several) to uncover what’s behind the disgruntled attitude and what can be done to mitigate or change it. Be prepared to hear feedback about your own leadership or how things are managed. Don’t assume the problem resides 100% with the employee.
Make sure your plan to address the issue includes frequent check-ins. In addition to immediate, direct and honest feedback, those meetings will keep everyone on the same page about what is going well, what still needs a bit of tweaking and what support is necessary for continued growth. H. Jackson Brown said, “Protect your enthusiasm from the negativity of others.” As a leader, you need to protect the entire team’s enthusiasm along with your own. That means taking quick and decisive action to address the vocal pessimist among you.
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