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Turning negatives into positives: top ten tips

Last week, we talked about motivating others. ID-10046971If you have even just one member who’s unmotivated in your team, their attitude and opinions could spread like a virus. The risk is that this could go on to affect others around them.

Here are our tips on how to manage such a situation, and how to help turn around the negativity of the individual(s) in question, and to boost morale for the whole team. You may not be able to do anything about the root cause of the issue, but there may be ways you can reduce or eradicate its impact.

  1. Listen

Perhaps the first is obvious. Employees feel empowered if they’re listened to, whereas being ignored could fuel their negativity. Set aside time to listen to their concerns without distraction.

  1. Drill down

Ask as many questions as necessary to get to the bottom of the issue. Just understanding that an employee is unhappy about a situation won’t help you to deal with it. Discover exactly why they’re so aggrieved. Try and put their objections into some context; it’s possible that they could have overexaggerated the problem in their mind, dragging in every minor fault over the last five years, because they’ve got caught in a negative cycle. They may also be reacting to rumours that have no foundation.

  1. Have empathy

You may know more about the running of the department than the person who’s being negative, so it’s easier for you to see the bigger picture. You may think their gripe is petty, or not worth the negativity they’re spouting. To help them overcome their negativity, however, you need to put yourself in their shoes, and truly understand how the situation impacts them. Don’t assume, disregard, or go through the motions.

  1. Be honest

Don’t make false promises just to please your team member if it’s something you can’t deliver – because the fallout will be much worse. Be honest and open about the situation, and what can be done. And don’t just feedback to your team; report the cause of the negativity to your superior. Decisions made in a boardroom are not the same as those made in real time, and the impact of a change or demand may never become known if communication doesn’t travel up and down the corporate ladder.

  1. Plan

It may be that you have a little input or control over the situation at fault. Form a ‘baby-steps’ action plan with your team. Involve them, and have them take responsibility for certain aspects. Once solved, the feelings that will come from this achievement – rather than just handing over the solution on a plate – will improve positivity and morale. People don’t usually mind doing a bit more, if they believe their efforts are appreciated and valued.

  1. Change their thinking

Sometimes, the negativity may not stem from a specific situation but a longstanding habit. Negative beliefs and self-talk are hard to combat, because they’re usually accompanied by low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. Is there room for personal coaching or development for the employee in the budget; if not, help them as much as you can to flip their thinking and to see obstacles as opportunities.

  1. Don’t rise

When asked why they’re negative, it’s common for people to go on the defensive, which can mean they lose control of their emotions. Anger may raise its head, and things they say may be aimed at you personally. Don’t retaliate, as it won’t help the situation at all. Remember that it’s about their perception of events, and nothing to do with you – you’re just providing the outlet. Don’t lay blame, just help to calm them then work out a workable plan that they’re happy with. Don’t instruct how they’ve to deal with things, put the onus on them and ask how they would like to see the situation improve.

  1. Don’t accept excuses

Just as you shouldn’t enflame a situation, neither should you do everything to please them in the hope they’ll then become happy. Negative people can often find excuses why they shouldn’t do things, claiming to have seen things fail before. Challenge these statements: ask why something didn’t work previously and what they would have done differently. Don’t accept that their bleak outcome is the only one, and inspire them to believe that things will be different this time, if they all follow the plan.

  1. Instil positivity

It won’t just appear on its own; you have to make positivity part of the culture. Aim to sort differences and conflict before they fester; get to the nub of an issue as soon as you notice it affecting the mood or productivity of your team. Be involved with your employees, and ensure that they know they can approach you with any problem at any time. The continuous negative person may not feel they have anything to approach you with, as they tend to have lots of small niggles than one whopper of a complaint; therefore, you need to have regular chats and interaction to help them address and manage their concerns, rather than dwell on them day by day.

  1. Accept that some people will always be the same

After working through all these points, and possibly having a pretty positive team – bar one member – it may be something you have to accept: some people get a twisted enjoyment from their negativity and can be determined to cling on to it even after personal coaching, chats with their manager, and any attempts to make their working day better….they’ll still find something to moan about. It’s at this point that you may need to consider what they bring to the table – is it worth the negative effect they have on the rest of the team? The company’s grievance procedure could be the final tool to use; if that isn’t enough to wake them up, talk to HR about moving them from your team or letting them go altogether. It’s sad, but if you’ve given someone every chance to change their attitude and they won’t meet you halfway, what else can you do?

If negativity or conflict is an all-too-common feature in teams/departments within your organisation, you may benefit greatly from our conflict coaching. Contact us on 01329 820580 for more details.

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