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Tag Archives: dealing with workplace negativity

How to deal with inappropriate workplace behaviour (and stay out of legal hot water)

StephenHammondI’ve often addressed how leaders should deal with specific dysfunctional workplace behaviours (including my suggestions in this article in CPA Magazine).  Today though, my professional colleague and friend Stephen Hammond comes at this very important subject from a much more global perspective.  The focus of Stephen’s professional practice is helping leaders improve workplace behaviour, and he’s also the author of a new book The New Norm: a manager’s guide to improving workplace behaviour…and keeping out of legal hot water.  I am thrilled that he agreed to write a guest post for the Turning Managers Into Leaders blog.

Why does anyone put up with inappropriate workplace behaviours, some of which can be described as harassment, bullying and discrimination?  After all, we’ve had decades of policies and education to address these very issues…yet problems persist in so many workplaces.

It seems we need to ask some very important questions: Why can one person poison an entire workplace? Why can a bully be promoted into a managerial role where she can wreak havoc on even more employees? Why does a bullying boss get a promotion, thereby indicating that the organization rewards bad behaviour? And why can people blow the whistle on bad behaviour and yet they end up with discipline, or worse, they get fired? Continue reading

Overcome workplace negativity by letting people take action and gain control

Last week I offered up one idea on a specific action leaders can take to address workplace negativity in their teams – helping their people see the big picture. I had promised one more idea though, so here it is – let people take action and feel like they’re taking back control.

RollingUpSleevesWhen you give people opportunities to make decisions about and control and/or influence their jobs, you can nip negativity in the bud (or at least stem the tide). One of the biggest sources of workplace negativity comes from a feeling of loss of control. When people are able to make decisions, even small decisions, they get back the feeling of control, and as a result negativity is lessened. Continue reading

Overcome workplace negativity by helping employees see the big picture

ThumbsDownCartoonWorkplace negativity is a reality! And often, unfortunately, negative people can end up in your organization or department. By far, the worst aspect of negativity though is that it’s toxic, it spreads beyond just one individual, usually to others the person interacts with. So it isn’t just the negative person that is the problem; unchecked, negativity makes its way insidiously through the entire department. As a leader then, you not only need to be aware of it, but also take active steps to manage it. In the past, I’ve offered ideas on specific actions that you can take to stem the tide – challenging extreme language and letting people talk – but it’s been a while since I covered this subject … so in today’s and my next blog post, I have two more ideas.

First, draw the big picture for your employees, particularly the ones who are prone to negativity. Continue reading

An approach to deal with negative employees

spongeYour best employees are enthusiastic, keen and eager to learn. Think of them as sponges, thirsty for knowledge, just waiting to soak up new experiences and fresh ideas. Contrast them with the other kind of employee – you know, the negative employees that are disenchanted, weary, and jaded by past encounters. They are sponges too. But these sponges are saturated and sodden, flooded with negativity borne from past situations. And because the sponges are already full, there is no room for anything else!

Until you squeeze water out of a drenched sponge, it cannot absorb any more. Which is something worth keeping in mind if you’re struggling with motivating an uninspired or disillusioned employee. You cannot just create a positive and stimulating environment and hope that such people will absorb the excitement and energy. If they’re already full of dissatisfaction and bitterness, then there will not be room for anything else, no matter how much effort you put into it. So think first about what you can do to “squeeze” out the negativity. Take the time to get to know these staff members at more than a superficial level. Find out about past situations that might have created their current mental state. Probe to discover the source of their “baggage”. Try and get at the root cause of the liquid deadweight. Only once you have squeezed out some of the liquid will they be able to absorb any more.

Well, what are your ideas or tips on things that leaders can do to “squeeze” out the old? Please share them by adding to the Comments link below.

Dealing with dysfunctional workplace behavior

CPA_Mag_Apr2014In the newest issue of CPA Magazine*, writer Deanne Gage pens an interesting article on anti-patterns – undesirable and dysfunctional workplace behavior that manifests over and over again – and she sought out Merge’s expertise for advice on how to overcome several common situations.  For strategies to deal with cookie lickers, mushroom managers, credit grabbers, and hammerheads (or if you just even want to know what these terms mean!), read the article: Continue reading

How to handle employee conflict

CGA0102-2014CoverI often blog and talk about how conflict and disagreement amongst your people is not a bad thing (Why conflict and disagreement are essential for high-performing teams and Minimizing conflict is not always a good thing) but there is a line when “good” employee conflict crosses over into “bad”.  When constant conflict between two or more of your employees is based on personal dislike and only seems to get worse, then it’s time to step in … but not quite in the way you might expect. In my latest article in CGA Magazine, I offer four key things to consider in your quest to get your employees to play nice! Continue reading

Dealing with employee complaints – live audio event on November 21

Conflict and negativity in the workplace, if left unchecked, can lead to low team morale and decreased productivity. Even worse, it can shift into harassment, discrimination, or even violence. Which means, that as a leader, you can’t just hope that such issues will simply work themselves out or magically disappear. You have to take deliberate focused action to address the issue!

But do you know how to confidently and assertively address employee complaints and concerns in a manner that will get to the root of the problem and result in positive outcomes? If not, then this audio conference titled “No Whining Allowed – How to deal with employee complaints and concerns” is exactly what you need. In one fast-paced power hour, you will learn specific strategies for assessing and evaluating employee concerns, and tested tactics for dealing with complaints quickly, fairly and in a way that takes care of the situation long-term.

Click here to register now

Don’t wait! If you act by November 14, you can take advantage of early bird savings. Here’s just some of what you’ll learn:

  • Two very important reasons you shouldn’t ignore the problem (or even hope that it will go away)
  • Seven specific things you can do to effectively question, paraphrase and listen to get to the bottom of a concern or complaint
  • How to give your employees tools to become part of the solution (rather than part of the problem), and in the process manage circumstances before things become too hot to handle
  • The “big four” situations when it’s time to bring in the “big guns” in the form of professional help
  • Specific actions that you can take to avoid getting in legal or regulatory hot water later

Join me on November 21, 2012 at 11 AM MST. Early bird pricing in effect ONLY until tomorrow Wednesday November 14!

Click here to register, or for more information

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to dealing effectively with employee concerns and complaints?

Every workplace has at least the occasional disagreement or conflict , and sooner or later, every supervisor or manager is called upon to deal with negativity amongst team members.   If left unchecked, conflict and negativity will lead to low team morale and decreased productivity, and can even shift into harassment, discrimination, or at worst, violence.  Which means that you HAVE to take action NOW in order to prevent a worse situation later.

This is exactly the subject under discussion in my next live audio conference on November 21, 2012.  In “No Whining Allowed – How to deal with employee complaints and concerns”, I’ll be covering specific and practical information on how to confidently and assertively address employee complaints and conflicts in a manner that will get to the root of the issue and result in a positive outcomes.  I’ll be opening the lines for questions, so I want to know – as a manager or supervisor, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to dealing effectively with employee concerns and complaints? What one thing could I help you with so that you can address these issues before they turn into bigger crises? Go to to ask your question and I’ll answer as many as I can on November 21.

And while you’re at, be sure to download the free article – “Conquering the Negativity Toxin” – in which I lay out specific strategies to deal with negativity in the workplace. Just click on the link on the bottom left of the screen.

Workplace negativity is toxic

GlassWater1The unfortunate truth about negative people is that their sour attitudes bring the rest of the workplace down.  And if you’re a manager, supervisor or team leader, it’s this toxic nature of negative people that should cause you the greatest concern.  Imagine for a moment that you have a glass of water sitting in front of you.  The water in this glass is clear and bright.  But what if you were to take a pitcher of coffee and pour a few drops into the glass of water.  Immediately the coffee would swirl and spread through the glass of clear liquid, and cloud and darken the mixture.  Negative people are like that.  Just a few drops can immediately cloud and darken the team atmosphere.  Just a few negative people can dampen team morale and productivity.  Which means, if you are a leader, you need to take immediate action to deal with those few drops.  Otherwise, if left unchecked, team morale will slip, productivity will suffer, and bottom-line, your people will stop working well together.

So what can you do about it?  Well, there are no quick fixes, but it has to start with a conscious effort to cultivate a positive attitude in the rest of your people.  Notice my use of the word “cultivate” – creating a positive workplace is a process, not unlike the progression of gardening.  The positivity seeds have to be planted, frequently watered, given sufficient light and nutrients, protected from predators and diseases, and allowed to grow and flower. This requires monitoring and effort.  If you invest time and energy into creating a positive work environment, it will combat the negativity toxin that is spread by a nasty few.

What other ideas do you have to combat negativity in the workplace?

Overcome workplace negativity by feeding the grapevine

A couple of weeks ago, I offered up two ideas, based on my experience in my leadership development practice, about why negativity is so widespread in some organizations.  It struck a chord with a few readers because I received several private emails, all asking for advice on HOW to deal with this negativity.  I’ve already offered some perspectives and strategies to the folks who emailed, but it occurred to me that others may also benefit from this information.  So I’ll make it point to offer specific tips on this subject every so often in the upcoming months.  To get us started, here is one specific action that you can take if you are the supervisor or manager of a team that has one or more negative people.

GrapevineFeed the grapevine. Okay, that sounds a little cryptic, so let me explain.  Every organization, even if it’s small, has a rumour mill, or a grapevine.  And honestly, I figure that the company grapevine is quite possibly, THE MOST efficient and well-oiled form of communication known to mankind!  The crazy thing is that so many of the supervisors and team leaders that I work with are so frustrated with the company grapevine that they do everything within their power to squelch it or shut it down.  But the truth is that you can’t!  Instead, I subscribe to a different philosophy.  I believe that if you can’t beat ‘em, you should join ’em.  Instead of fighting AGAINST the company grapevine, you will have much greater success if you work WITH it.  Feed it with information!  When people have scarcity of information, they make it up!  And invariably, the stuff they make up are the worst possible scenarios.  And then, fueled by the most horrible possibilities, the rumour mill goes rampant and out of control.  Instead, if you provide as much information as you can (obviously without violating any confidentiality requirements), you will at least counteract, if not overcome the negative gossip that normally exists there.  The key is that you have to be willing to provide information, even if it’s not finalized or complete.  A lot of people prefer to wait until all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed before they share information, and it’s this very delay that get the negativity spinning and churning.  Feed the grapevine – communicate more, much more, much more often!

Have you observed any examples of this negativity churn in your organization’s grapevine?