Research shows that one “bad apple” – an employee with a negative
attitude – can impact your entire team. It doesn’t take long before the
gloomy team member infects others with their defeatist behavior.
we need to understand why anyone would adopt an attitude that seemingly
has no professional payoff. The answer is because there can be a social
reward. An employee might make a negative comment for a laugh or to
attempt to be part of a consensus.
So what’s the solution to negativity in the office? It’s isolation.
How? Remove the social incentive.
Isolate the behavior through direct and assertive responses. For
instance, after a wisecrack about a new management focus, one could say,
“I understand you feel that way, Chris, but I don’t, and I’m excited to
hear about the new direction.” You remove the social incentive by
showing that others on the team don’t share it.
The goal is to respond politely. It won’t work to challenge the
person by saying, “Why are you always so darn negative?” Very few people
will agree that they’re negative.
Likewise, it doesn’t work to debate: “You’re wrong about management.
They have a good handle on things.” The negative person will counter
with their own arguments. But a non-combative, polite response does
Here are two more examples:
- “I hear what you’re saying, but I really like our new strategy. I’d like to give it a try.”
- “You might think so, but I believe this campaign is going to work, and I’d like to learn more about it.”
Negativity spreads like a wildfire, bringing down morale,
productivity and financial results. Solve it with an isolating response
made in a courteous, non-aggressive way. Just say you respect their
right to think as they do, but you don’t share their attitude. Soon,
they’ll decide there’s no reward in being negative.