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How to Deal with Negative Employees

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Negative EmployeesMany leaders find that they spend more time and energy dealing with negative employees than actually managing their departments. You know, the employees who seem to wait for you to come in so that they can complain to you. Nothing is ever good enough for them, and they find opportunities to complain to their co-workers and influence them to become negative complainers too.

Negative employees are a huge challenge for leaders.

According to Tandem HR, negative employees:

  • Find flaws in every suggested solution
  • Point out negative characteristics
  • Gossip
  • Believe they are indispensable
  • Most likely are highly productive employees

Even though they may be productive and perhaps clinically competent, they have a negative impact on overall morale and team relationships and therefore, need to be addressed.

The good news is, there are some practical strategies you can adopt to address these negative employees.

Practical Solution #1: Name the Behavior

The first and easiest strategy to use when confronting a negative employee is to just name it. It’s the same strategy I talk about using when addressing any kind of disruptive behaviors. Negativity is no different. Here are some ways you can name it:

“Our intent is to promote a positive work environment and what I hear is a lot of negativity in your conversations.”

“I can hear you complaining and I’m sure patients and their families can hear you, too.”

“What you said sounds very negative.”

“Our breakroom needs to be a place of peace-not a place for complaining and negativity.”

“I’m not sure you realize this, but you come across as very negative.”

Click here to get access to 31 more scripts!

Practical Solution #2: Set Boundaries

How often have you found yourself giving your precious time to someone who’s only goal is to complain about someone or something to you? Meanwhile, you have more pressing concerns like, oh I don’t know…making sure your patients are taken care of!

Leaders need to learn how to set boundaries with negative employees. Here are a few tips:

Set boundaries first, before they begin complaining, using these scripts:

“I have 2 minutes to listen to your complaints and then I have work to do.”

“I am willing to listen to your complaint as long as you are willing to first start with something positive.”

“Before I listen to your complaint, tell me one good thing that happened…”

“I’m willing to give you the attention you want after I’m finished                 .”

Saying you “are willing” is important because it conveys that you have a choice in who or what to give your attention to.

Practical Solution #3: Role Model Positivity

Pay attention to how you start your day.

Employees watch their leaders as they come into work. If you come in and you’re “gloom and doom”, that influences their day. Pause and take a deep breath before you cross the threshold of your workspace and focus on being positive the second you walk in.

Put your curiosity hat on.

When someone complains say, “Hmm…I don’t see it that way at all. I’m wondering why you do.” Most of the time they will expect you to argue with them, but by saying this it opens the door to a conversation and helps them see that there’s a different perspective.

Extend kindness, grace, patience, and forgiveness.

No matter what, extend kindness, grace, patience, and forgiveness to negative employees because it’s not easy out there, especially now. Healthcare professionals have been dealing with so much for so long. We all need to extend the same compassion to each other as we do to our patients.

My favorite script I’ve given leaders to say to their employees who are acting out is, “Look-you can be angry, frustrated, stressed out, burned out. You just can’t be cruel. Not here. Not today. Can I count on you to be at your very best today?”

These strategies only work for those employees that do a good job but are just negative. However, there are some people that go beyond just being negative-they’re destructive.

When does negativity cross the line into destructive behavior?

  • Poor performance
  • Constantly making mistakes
  • Exhibits aggressive behavior- yelling, cursing, losing their temper-especially in front of patients
  • Lying
  • Falsifying records
  • Stealing
  • Uses any form of physical violence

This is a completely different situation and requires disciplinary action. These are all signs of a character flaw, and they need to be therapeutically extracted. These are not people you can train. So just be mindful of these red flags.

Negativity is a huge issue effecting the workplace. It wreaks havoc on morale and when subjected to it every day, can turn even the most positive of people to despair. It is our responsibility, as leaders, to address the negativity to create a positive, professional, and healthy work culture. Don’t forget to start with yourself!

To learn how you can reduce incidents of bullying and incivility in your organization, contact us at Wecare@healthyworkforceinstitute.com.

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The Healthy Workforce Institute is the global leader in addressing disruptive behavior in healthcare. Through our cadre of services, we provide the strategies, skills, and solutions to address any incidences of disruptive behaviors that show up in healthcare.

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