There’s always one. We’ve all met one, encountered one or we could even be currently working with one. They upset managers and fellow employees—even themselves—and bring down staff morale. What are we talking about? Negative employees.

It is not the most pleasant component of a manager’s job, but if you manage people, it’s almost inevitable that you will eventually encounter a situation in which an employee doesn’t perform well, or is difficult to deal with, or has a hard time getting along with others etc. – you get the idea. For the sake of your other employees it’s critical to manage a negative employee quickly before they corrode morale.

According to the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, toxic workers “infect their neighbors very quickly”. Even just having a toxic worker on the same floor as you can increase your risk of becoming toxic yourself. Not only that but a Harvard Business School study found that in addition to the loss of employee morale “even relatively modest levels of toxic behavior can cause major organizational cost, including customer loss, increased turnover, and loss of legitimacy among important external stakeholders.”

However, as highlighted in a recent PMQ Pizza Magazine article, when faced with this unpleasant dilemma, there are many steps an owner and/or manager can take before showing someone the door.

  1. It’s time for a talk: If there’s an employee whose behavior is having a negative impact, you need to nip it in the bud. As we mentioned at the start, be timely about it because negativity can spread like wildfire.
  2. Give Clear Feedback: When having the conversation with the person whose behavior is a problem, avoid giving him or her general criticism such as “you’re too negative” – this is not constructive and will more than likely put them on the defensive. Instead give clear, behavioral feedback. Discuss a specific situation where the employee was negative and how their behavior had an impact. This allows the employee a chance to respond, observe their actions and change course.
  3. Create Solutions: Focus on the positive aspects of the employee’s performance: Help them build their self-image and capacity to contribute. Talk to their about what they have done well and what you appreciate about their work. Even during a conversation about a negative behavior, reflecting on the positive is a welcome addition.
  4. Call it out when you see it: Even when employees want to improve their attitudes, they may be so used to exuding negativity or having a particular attitude that they don’t realize what they’re doing when they are doing it. So, it’s important to point out these examples as soon as possible after they happen. This reinforcement can help reduce the negativity and improve their behavior.
  5. Set consequences if things don’t change: However, more often than not, it isn’t as clear cut as having a conversation and hey presto the problem is solved. If things don’t improve you need to get specific. Many companies employ probation periods for all new employees and also issue warnings such as “three strikes and you’re out” rule. Make the employee aware of company rules and limits, inform him or her of each “strike,” and remind them when they have only one “strike” left.
  6. If necessary, show them the door: While good managers hold out hope for improvement, sometimes, a person simply isn’t a good cultural fit. When they show they can’t or won’t change, it’s time to let them go. Even if the employee is terrific or highly skilled unfortunately it’s not worth the risk of keeping them around.

Check out the full article on PMQ Pizza Magazine.