Turning around negative attitudes – the line manager’s perspective
People demonstrate their negative attitudes in many different ways, but here are some general coping strategies.
- Recognize that an attitude problem exists.
The first step is to recognize that someone is expressing negativity in the workplace. Do not ignore it if it is affecting that person’s performance, your performance, the performance of others or relationships with your clients or customers.
- Acknowledge any underlying causes for the negative attitude.
As we know, negativity has many causes. The factors could include personal problems, work-related stress, a difficult boss, job insecurity, loss of loyalty, lack of growth or advancement opportunities and so forth. It helps to get the person to see the causes for their negativity. Ask honest but non-threatening questions of colleagues like, “You look stressed. Is there anything I can do?” It is also important to recognize that what is causing the negativity is often justified and that the person showing the negativity has the right to feel that way.
- Help the person take responsibility.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the person expressing negativity to change their negative attitude and behaviours at work. Even though the person may have every right to feel the way they do, it is still not appropriate for the workplace. As a line manager, you need to help your colleague recognize this and to have them take ownership. Address the problem privately with them in a way that demonstrates concern for both their problems and the well-being of the team.
- Replace negative, inappropriate reactions with different, more acceptable ones.
Even though I just said that it is the job of the person expressing negativity to change their actions, you may need to help. They may not know what to do differently to come across as more positive. It will often be up to you to specify exactly what that is. You can suggest that other people aren’t aware of the person’s other (positive) qualities or that their contributions are being eclipsed by the negative behaviour.
- Instill positive attitudes in others.
Be the role model for the person expressing negativity through your actions and behaviours. You can prevent their negativity by instilling in them a positive attitude. If you do that, they may never catch the negative bug again.
Most of all, it’s important to start a dialogue with colleagues that are behaving in a difficult way so that issues can be addressed.
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