Per a recent large, multinational Gallup Poll, a mere 13% of employees say they feel engaged at work with an enormous 22 million employees reporting being actively disengaged from their places of work, costing a whopping $350 billion dollars a year due to absenteeism and loss of productivity. That means 1 out of every 8 employees simply aren’t committed to their jobs. If you’re a small or medium sized business, that could mean a few members of your already lean staff aren’t really on board or looking out for the team’s best interest. And in today’s economy, it’s crucial for everyone to pull their weight.
How Negative Employees Impact the Workplace
Negative employees can plague organizations, and their reach is wide, with the biggest and most financially detrimental problem being high turnover. Turnover means that by the time you have invested time and money into properly training a new hire, they’re heading out the door. You’ll have to start the hiring and training process all over again. And yet – beyond the steep costs of turnover – negative employees can be contagious. Negative employees impact the entire team’s sense of morale and lessen everyone’s desire to contribute quality work to the organization.
Some Common Types of Negative Employees
- The employee the whole team has grown weary of. Everyone on the team has grown tired of them and their many gripes, and you’d get the same feedback from more than one of their coworkers. They are notoriously terrible and disengaged.
- The employee who is outspoken regarding their dissatisfaction. Everyone know where this employee stands, because they don’t give up talking about the problems they see around them. For them, nothing is right and everyone is going to know all about it. This negative employee is a broken record of complaints.
- The employee who loses their cool with coworkers and clients. Yikes. This one doesn’t keep their thoughts to just their coworkers. Even your clients know where this employee stands. No manager wants that, and clients won’t tolerate that type of negativity for long.
- The employee who pawns off their work on everyone else. This one is especially hard on the group’s morale, because they offload their tasks onto everyone around them. Meaning, your diligent conscientious employees may end up being overworked and discouraged.
- The employee who claims that certain tasks are beneath them. We’ve all been there – you’re in a superstore and ask an employee for help finding something only to hear, “that’s not my department.” Well, of course it’s their department – because customers are their department. No employee should be so job-specific focused that they can’t lend a helping hand when needed
- The employee who refuses to take any personal responsibility. Nothing is their responsibility and nothing is their fault. When something is wrong, you can be sure they’ll be pointing a finger at just about anyone else.
What You Can Do about Negative Employees
Don’t give up on the negative employee just yet. While you shouldn’t keep a negative employee around forever if they aren’t going to change, it’s in everyone’s best interest to try and turn the corner – and it’s not unheard of. There are employees that may have once been the unhappiest in the group – who could turn out to be one of your biggest supporters.
- Recognize that just paper doesn’t work when it comes to transforming behavior. Traditionally managers and HR departments would handle problem employees with paper trails: written warnings, letters, write-ups. While Paper Trails may be important to protect you in the case that you end up having to let the negative employee go – experience has showed us that paper doesn’t work as a motivator.
- Bolster your positive employees. Believe it or not, even with a negative employee in the mix, your positive employees can still stand strong. In a strong organization with healthy morale, the negative employee will be the one to stand out, and may be steered in the right direction by your own team members. If you observe an employee demonstrating a positive attitude – praise and reward it as their enthusiasm will do wonders for the entire team.
- Take a top down approach. Are you excited about where your team is headed? If you’re not clear about your vision and goals, it’s likely your team will be even further in the dark. Start your day on a positive note, and bring your best to the workplace – your team is looking to you to set the tone. Set an atmosphere of positivity and collaboration. Make positivity the norm.
- As much as you may not want to hear from your negative employee, you may be able to learn from them – and they may be able tell you what’s missing. An HR expert recently chimed in in a clever Forbes Article, encouraging managers to ask, “How am I doing?” and then really listen.
- Explain your expectations, clearly. People thrive with boundaries and goals. While your priorities may be crystal clear to you, your staff may not know what their role in the business is. Talk to them about their role and how they can contribute to the larger picture. Let them know what you expect. It is critical to be specific regarding your expectations, from dress code to work tasks. Give them everything they need to prosper and find success.
- Hire right. While a candidate may have all the technical skills you think the position needs, their expertise has very little to do with the position’s overall success. A recent study demonstrated that from a group of 10,000 participants, just 15% of their success was a result of technical expertise and training, and they felt 85% had to do with personality factors and their ability to communicate with people. Hire slow.
If, in the end, a negative employee isn’t turning their behavior around, it may be time to cut ties. And that’s okay – it happens. Make sure you’ve documented your efforts to support the employee staying with the organization, and then gracefully terminate.