How to Coach (or deal with) a Negative Employee | Compass Point Skip to main content

As a leader, it is more likely that you’ll manage a negative employee or situation than not. Whether it is a short-lived instance or a long term issue, it can be manageable with candid conversations. Here are a few steps that work well to address and remedy the situation:

  • Unearth the problem before you work on a solution
    • Try to understand what’s causing the negativity. Are they overwhelmed at home or work? Is there something else impacting their work?
    • You may not be a trained therapist, but you should know your people. Do what you can to reveal the cause of the situation. Without doing so, you could be solving the wrong problem.
  • Give concrete, specific feedback
    • Start with the positive. Providing a few examples of how the employee contributes or is valued sets the tone for the conversation. Then, address their negativity and its impact on the workplace.
    • “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind,” Brene Brown, Researcher & Author specializing in vulnerability. By providing actionable and clear feedback, leaders create an approachable conversation to defuse a negative situation and mindset.
    • Feedback should not be personal. It is focused on actions and expectations.
  • Offer the opportunity to help
    • As a leader, you are invested in the development of your team, in good and in bad times. Following the feedback portion of your conversation, proactively offer ways you can help the employee change their mindset. Doing so highlights your investment in the employee as well as their accountability in their personal improvement.
  • Be clear about your expectations and look for agreement.
    • To close the conversation, outline the expectations for each of you. This includes next steps and conversations to ensure the employee is working towards a changed mindset and output at work.
    • Identifying the expectations is clear for both resolution and for future conversations. Success is clearly defined in goals for the employee with specific timelines.
    • Ensure the employee understands the expectation by receiving agreement from them. This maintains a clear understanding between the both of you.

If you are looking for additional material regarding your team, I recommend The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. “…[Lencioni] turns his focus to the individual member of a team, revealing the three indispensable virtues that make some people better team players than others. The Ideal Team Player presents a powerful framework and easy-to-use tools for identifying, hiring and developing ideal team players in any kind of organization.” (Table Group)

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Lizette Dubacher profile picture
Lizette Dubacher

Lizette brings a strong business acumen and a track record of producing operational improvements and identifying new market opportunities to her work. Her approach to strategic planning involves solving complex problems, while aligning the hearts and minds of leadership teams around a shared vision. 

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