Positive Negative

7 Ways to Deal with Negativity on your Team

“Bad attitudes will ruin your team.”

Terry Bradshaw

Negativity within a team can cause major morale issues and poor outcomes. Conversely, optimism can create amazing teams and incredible results. Every team deals with both positive and negative situations, so how can you create the maximum amount of positivity and manage the least amount of negativity on your team?

Here are seven things to consider:

1. As your team’s leader, set an example of being optimistic and open.

This one is listed first because it is a crucial characteristic of being an effective leader. When inevitable challenges occur, try to look at them as learning opportunities. Be sure to include key members of your team to discuss solutions to resolve issues in a positive way and communicate them positively to your team. Make sure to clearly set forth your expectations and positive vision for your team. Foster an environment of open and honest communication. When a team member feels like their voice isn’t being heard, their opinions matter or that they’re in the dark, they can quickly go down the negative road.

2. Look for and recognize the positive.

When you do see positive results be sure to praise the team member and/or team. Cultivate a culture of encouragement and camaraderie. When a team feels appreciated incredible things can happen. This positive energy can be like a domino effect going through your entire team.

3. Does the negativity lie with one person or has it spread among other team members?

Attitudes are contagious and can quickly influence others on your team. As soon as you see negative attitudes you need to quickly get to the bottom of why it is happening. If it’s a team member under one of your managers then encourage them to have a conversation with them as soon as possible. If it’s negativity that’s ambiguous and you’re not sure where it originated from, then setup a meeting or a call with your top leaders/managers to try to identify the root causes and solutions to move forward. If you discover that the negativity is coming from one of your top leaders then setup a one-on-one meeting with them to listen to their concerns and frustrations and see if you can mutually come up with options to move forward in a positive way. In some cases, the best decision may be to part your separate ways and wish them well in their future endeavors.

4. Is their negativity circumstantial or part of their nature?

It’s expected that everyone has a bad day once in awhile. Maybe your team member is going through a difficult time personally or is experiencing a devastating experience with a family member or close friend. The best thing you can do is to be supportive and have an honest conversation with him/her to see how you can help them move forward. Perhaps they need some time off or to take certain responsibilities off their plates.

If they have a negative personality that is always finding fault, complaining and/or stirring up trouble on your team, then you need to have a serious conversation with them to discuss how they can adjust their attitude. If an attitude adjustment can’t be made, then they probably aren’t a good fit for your team.

5. How do you start the crucial conversation and what is the right way to communicate with them?

Make sure to ask open-ended questions to gather information. Before addressing their attitude, assess their level of satisfaction with their role. Have their expectations been met? Under what circumstances could they see themselves happy on your team?

Most people when they are put in a stressful situation addressing their negative behavior become defensive so be sure to keep your tone civil.  You want to be non-confrontational yet direct. Clearly articulate your concerns with specific examples so there’s no misunderstanding. Be sure to give them the opportunity to explain their reasons for their negativity. This will be especially helpful as other team members may feel the same way. Their feedback may be new information for you to process to build a more positive team in the future.

6. Be sure to follow up.

If you listened to their concerns and came up with positive solutions, be sure to check back and see if their progress has turned a negative attitude or situation to a positive one. Circling back shows that you care that they’re making progress and you want to help them add value to the team. Hopefully, they will also personally feel valued and appreciated as part of your team.

7. Boost positivity!

Consider setting team goals with rewards and/or a special event to encourage collaboration, strengthen relationships and recognize achievement when they hit their goals. Be sure to set different types of goals – e.g. short term goals that are realistic and long term goals that cause them to reach and challenge the team.

Leaders who avoid crucial conversations and action to combat negativity can pay a heavy price resulting in not only low team morale, but low productivity and loss of team members. Hopefully, the above suggestions can help leaders foster individual optimism to create dynamic and positive teams.

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