Attitude: It’s Contagious!

Dear Anita,

I have a negative employee that I wish would get the flu and stay home from work! Her cynical attitude and pessimism is really bringing the team down. She does get her work done, but not without complaining. Any ideas on how to manage this “Gloomy Gussie?”

Donkey with umbrellaDear Eyeore Encourager,

An employee with a negative attitude can quickly become an emotional drain on the more positive team members. Misery loves company, so you are wise to nip negative behavior in the bud.

Chances are, your Gloomy Gussie’s attitude is a habit. She may not even realize she is coming across as a wet blanket. Here are some ways to encourage more positivity at work:

    • Smile at her (even if you don’t feel like it). Smiling is contagious. Try to beat the statistics: 30% of people smile five to 20 times a day at the office, and 28% smile over 20 times per day at work.
    • Encourage your entire team to find solutions instead of making complaints. In meetings, when Eyeore pooh-poohs an idea, turn the tables and ask how it could work.
    • Give clear feedback – and potential consequences – in one-on-one meetings. Be sure to let Sad Sally know that while her work output is satisfactory, a positive attitude is just as important.
    • Listen. It’s hard not to tune out Negative Nellie when she starts whining. But if you can get to the root of the dissatisfaction, you may just find the cure.
    • Praise progress. Be sure to catch her whenever she makes an effort, no matter how small, to be positive to encourage more of the desired behavior.
    • Keep your own attitude in check. When interacting with Pessimistic Patty, don’t roll your eyes (even inwardly but especially to other subordinates).
    • If things don’t improve, you may have to let this bad apple go. Just be sure to document specific examples of negativity affecting performance as “attitude problem” is too subjective, suggests this Houston Chronicle article, “How to Fire People with Bad Attitudes.”

“A healthy attitude is contagious, but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.” Tom Stoppard, playwright

Readers: Are you the carrier of an Eyeore or Tigger attitude at work?

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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