3 Ways to Deal With a Negative Employee at the Office

If you catch wind of negativity in the workplace, here are a few steps to help resolve the issue.

learn more about Trynka Shineman

By Trynka Shineman


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: How do you handle an employee that causes negativity at work?

A: Whether you have thousands of employees or just one, a negative individual can cause damage to your whole operation.

At Vistaprint we value our culture and environment as much if not more than any one individual, and that should be the same for organizations of all sizes. If you catch wind of negativity in the workplace, it is a difficult situation regardless if the individual is a strong or weak performer. In either scenario, here are some steps to resolving the issue:

Related: 7 Strategies for Dealing With Negative People

1. Start by having an open conversation to understand what is causing their negativity.

You may learn the employee is having a personal issue that is impacting his or her work and attitude. Or maybe there is a significant problem within your organization and what you perceive as a negative attitude might turn out to be constructive and helpful feedback. Perhaps there is a blind spot that you need to improve, and as your company has grown, changes have been made that have left this employee behind. Getting to the root of the problem is the first step, and, if you come from a place of compassion, the employee will be less defensive and more willing to be honest about their feelings.

2. Partner with the employee to see if the issue can be resolved.

Whether it's the employee's issue or the organization's, ideally you can work together to solve it now that you've started an open dialogue. It may be that the employee is unaware of the impact he or she is making, and simply having a conversation that brings it to their attention helps. Some necessary actions that may be uncovered as a result of this include:

  • Identify if there are real differences in opinion around the strategy or culture that won't be or can't be addressed. If that seems to be the case, you should act quickly and identify the right transition plan for this employee. There is nothing more demotivating or distracting than an employee who works counter to the strategy and culture of their organization.
  • Perhaps this employee needs additional support, is not in the right role or needs a change in manager to be able to have a positive impact on your organization. Find the right solution and implement.
  • Take action to rebuild trust and an open dialog between you, management and this employee. Hopefully you'll never find yourself in this situation with him or her again, but they should know they can come to you or their manager to discuss the issues they are facing.

Related: 5 Questions to Ask Before Dealing With a Negative Team Member

3. Make a plan and act.

Determine exactly how much time you are willing to give the situation. Pick a date, put a flag in your calendar and follow up to ensure you have fixed the issue. From there, determine if you need to take action, whether that is finding the employee a new position within the company or transitioning him or her out of the organization. The worst action is no action in this situation given the potential damage.

If there is someone within your organization that is not aligned with your strategy or culture, they are not going to be doing their best work. Ultimately, that is not good for you, your organization, your customer or that individual.

Related: 7 Ways to Have a Pleasant Conversation With a Negative Person

I have been in these situations throughout my career, and while they are difficult to go through, often you end up with a result where the employee is having much more impact and is much happier – either within the organization, or somewhere else.

Trynka Shineman

President of Vistaprint

Trynka Shineman is the president of Vistaprint, a company providing small-business owners with affordable marketing products.

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