by Matt Alderton | February 25, 2019
Negativity is like a virus: When you let it go unchecked, it grows and grows, eventually infecting entire teams, departments and even organizations. As a manager, it therefore behooves you to nip negativity in the bud, author Alyse Kalish argues in an article for The Muse.

"Everyone's crossed paths with a negative employee -- someone who always seems to be in a bad mood, who's not being productive and who's difficult to work with, whether because they say no to everything or because their pessimism brings down everyone around them," Kalish writes. "This kind of attitude can be disruptive and destructive for any team dynamic, affecting how the person's co-workers stay focused, motivated and happy at work. Plus, it doesn't exactly help with getting stuff done, either."

You may not be able to force optimism on a pessimistic employee, but you can mitigate the damage their attitude does by promoting alternative outlooks.

"In group settings, one powerful way to address negativity is to allow the naysayer to be heard -- but give others a chance to weigh in, too," Kalish continues. "You don't have to agree with what the person is saying, and chances are other people don't, either. Let those people chime in and quiet the negativity. Try saying something like, 'Hey, what does everyone else think about this?' or 'Does anyone have another opinion on this?' One person shouldn't overpower the whole, and when you're the kind of boss that weighs everyone's opinions equally, you ultimately come out on top."

If a single naysayer continues to bring the team town, consider speaking with him or her to further suss out the issue. "You want to get to the root of why they're acting this way, and figure out if there's anything you can do as their boss to improve the situation," says Kalish, who recommends asking open-ended questions like "How are you feeling about [relevant issue]?" or "What aspects of your job are you finding most frustrating/most exciting right now?"
"The key is not merely giving them an outlet to air their complaints, but encouraging them to be optimistic and forward-thinking," Kalish says. "Ask them what is working for them, and what they would change for the better if they could."

In the end, manager and employee alike hopefully can move forward with an understanding of what is causing the employee's negativity, and what can be done to foster more positivity in its place.

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