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  • Writer's pictureAllison Bacher

Negativity drains a team

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Do you have that teammate that always has a negative perspective to share with those around them? Their pessimism drags everyone down into that spiral of failure and doom. There’s always something wrong in the process, it’s always “them” and when you solve one problem they create ten new ones. You feel they are not really looking for answers, rather an excuse to complain constantly. And maybe they don’t even recognise their own behaviours!

There’s a difference between being an “away from” communicator (expressing things as problems rather than solutions) to toxic moaning. Constant negativity is not constructive: it is destructive to their own wellbeing, their work and their colleagues.

Communication styles

If an energy vampire leads or manages others, the results are evident. Low motivation in the team, low collaboration with other teams and business units, ultimately lower performance. A constant pessimistic view of things can shake the most positive beliefs of colleagues and reduce their ability and willingness to work towards common goals.

So how do you deal with this?

Firstly, accept that this is the case and consider the value that this person may bring to the team, what you would lose if they left. Speak to the person directly about their negativity and how they are impacting others - because maybe they just don’t realise it. Explain very clearly what value they bring, and how that is off-set by their negativity. Give some real examples of their behaviour and their impact. Ask them to explain why. If they react positively then you can work together on improving their communication style and implement problem-solving techniques. Agree on goals and a time-box for improvement. Agree how you will measure the improvement. Ask probing questions to find out if the driver is self-esteem issues, fear of losing their job/promotion/status or influenced some external circumstances. As their manager, you really need to decide whether this person can adjust or whether the team will be better off if they leave.

Remember as a leader your job is to provide your team:

  • Provide psychological safety and an open workplace

  • Make and help others make clear decisions

  • Communicate clear expectations

  • Challenge people to think and behave their very best

  • Positive energy and attitude

  • Facilitate problem-solving

  • Build strong working relationships

So what if you have the conversation and if they react negatively … will they really change with your coaching?

Then it’s time for a swiftly executed Plan B.

What skills do they have and how can you distribute the workload?

Act fast, there’s no benefit to drawing the situation out.

To protect yourself and the team from their bad influence be confident and decisive, focus on the positive. Learn to identify the traits and behaviours earlier next time.

After the initial shock of them leaving the team will take a little time to settle. Stay positive. You’ve done the right thing.


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