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Three Workers Communicating Around a Table in the Construction Industry

Dealing with negative employees

​Every workplace experiences negativity, or has negative people who damage the morale of the rest of the team. Even though there are many characteristics to identify them, they are very hard to recognise, turning this into a serious problem that is likely to harm your buisness over time.

Why is it hard to pick them?  The truth is, they tend to be very good at their jobs and avoid making big mistakes that could draw too much attention to themselves, therefore, they rarely raise the bell with management.

This is certainly not the most pleasant part of being a manager, but for the sake of your team, you should be prepared for it.

Firstly, you need to know how to spot them:

  • They are constantly complaining and exaggerating the seriousness of other worker’s mistakes

  • They tend to be highly involved in the main gossip around the workplace

  • You may feel as though your authority is undermined around them

  • You or their supervisors receive endless flows of negative criticism. Remember criticism is only good when administered constructively

Secondly, take action:

Intervene as soon as possible, communication is the key. You can’t know what’s going on in your employees’ mind unless you ask them.  Create an atmosphere of trust and remain non-confrontational. Never categorise the issue as an “attitude” problem, this is too subjective and can easily be viewed as personal dislike rather than a real performance problem. Listen carefully and focus on positive aspects and potential contributions.


We all have our own personal problems and its normal that these may affect your professional life from time to time. Make sure if there’s a personal problem affecting your employee, you are being considerate and offer your help without condoning behaviour. As a leader, you should show you genuinely care about your team, but you must have a plan to stop this behaviour from hurting your company’s culture.


By now, you should have a clear idea of what the problem really is. Don’t expect it to somehow disappear. Help your employee to get back on track and make them part of the solution. If this person is constantly criticising the team and their actions in a negative way, tell him you are interested in hearing their concerns, but that it would be best to mention it to you rather than other employees.

Develop an action plan and provide feedback on your employee’s progress. Try and make him focus on positive behaviour too, by giving some positive feedback on a situation or person he is criticising.

Things to take into consideration:

Everyone has bad days, when they're feeling down or express negativity, you can't eradicate this completely and there's no such thing as a perfect workplace, so don't set unrealistic expectations. Also, remember everyone makes mistakes, so there’s no need to intervene every single time someone has a slip or makes a negative comment. Instead, start to take note and become aware of continuous behaviour and patterns.