Category Archives: Coffee Shop HR World Cafe

How to Deal with Negative People at Work

Bonnie Milne, PhD

Bonnie Milne, PhD

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How do you manage negative attitudes in the workplace?”

We have all encountered people who stay in an organization for years, all the while complaining on a daily basis about their boss, the organization, their colleagues, their clients – it tires me out just thinking about it! But, how do we improve the situation?

First of all, it’s important to remember that complaints, much as we may not want to hear them, sometimes unearth legitimate issues. I remember reading once that it is better to have an employee who criticises the organization because it means they care about the quality of the people and the product. Perhaps this is one of the keys. At the risk of sounding like I am wearing my rose coloured glasses – well, maybe I am, but you can’t see me – I think it is possible to redirect the complaints into plans.

The danger seems to be in falling into the trap of responding to a complaint with another complaint – competing complaints – one-upmanship of the worst kind – “ Well, you think that’s bad – let me tell you….” You get the picture.

What if we respond with a question? Perhaps we could ask what the best solution to the problem would be –or what could the person complaining do to improve the situation. I love the way our brains respond to a question! It is as if they are programmed to answer any question thrown their way. So by asking a question you will have redirected the conversation instead of adding fuel to the fire.

Another technique; this one learned from Don Pinkham who I worked with at BCAA, calls for asking the person what the next step is. So, for example – when your colleague comes up with a solution – ask her what the next step is, or perhaps, what the first step is. Follow this up by asking if there is anything you can do. Quite often the answer will be that there is nothing she wants you to do.
I like this technique because it places the onus on my colleague and leaves me knowing that there is nothing expected of me. On the other hand if I’m asked to do something – I can consider it. Either way, I have broken the cycle – at least for the moment.

I came across this ‘no complaining rule’ in The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work written by Jon Gordon in 2008. http://www.jongordon.com/thenocomplainingrule.html

Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their coworkers. If they have a problem or complaint about their job, their company, their customer, or anything else, they are encouraged to bring the issue to their manager or someone who is in a position to address the complaint. However, the employees must share one or two possible solutions to their complaint as well.
This rule puts the onus on management to work with negative employees, but the message is the same. Colleagues who complain should be asked to come up with solutions. This turns the conversation around and that is, after all, what we want. And, it seems to me that every employee can be part of the solution.

So, we can deal with the issue of negative employees ourselves or try to implement a process in our organization. Although I would prefer the latter, sometimes we don’t have the power to change the organization, but we always have the power to change our response and that is a good starting point.

How to Welcome Negative Attitudes in the Workplace

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How do you manage negative attitudes in the workplace?”

Gareth Cartman

Gareth Cartman

Imagine a world without negativity. Smiles everywhere, acquiescence everywhere. You’ve got an idea? It’s a great one! Let’s do it!

In a world free of negativity, we’d do everything. We’d never question anything, we’d just get on with things, and do them. Yay! Positivity! Hurrah for positivity.

But after a while, things start to go wrong. That idea that nobody questioned, that project that everyone thought was going to go brilliantly – well it all went badly awry. But hey, we’re all positive and we bumble on, smiling happily, until the whole company falls around us and we smile on into our next jobs.

Without negative attitudes, all of this will happen – you have been warned.

Of course, this is a small exaggeration. Without positivity, nothing would ever get done. Positive attitudes are good. However, the negativity is what makes us question what we’re doing, and if we can’t make good of this negativity within our workplaces, we’ll never see the potential pitfalls in what we’re doing.

Few businesses realise the potential in negativity. They attempt to manage negative attitudes out of the workplace, or beat some positivity into them. Hey, wear a smile! Not happening.

I believe there’s a better way of handling negativity, of turning it around for the greater good. Let’s break it down into the different types of negativity, and see how we can get more out of negative attitudes in the workplace:

I hate my job but I’m not leaving it

 Now, we’ve started at the extreme, but let’s not dismiss it. A quit-stay has the potential to spread dissatisfaction around the business, and a quit-stay has to be turfed out at the very first possible opportunity. I can say that. I’m not in HR.

Nevertheless, you can at the very least glean some vital information about the way your business is run. What is the reason for dissatisfaction? Is it that person’s eternally negative personality? In which case, you have questions about your recruitment processes to answer. Is it line management or colleagues? Is it something stemming from the employee’s personal life?

There’s nothing that you can’t manage, one way or another. Problems at home can’t be resolved at work, but work can go some way to helping address those issues. No company can’t afford an employee assistance programme of some form or another – they’re cheaper than a Chinese takeaway at their most basic. It’s a no-brainer.

This project will never work

 I always like to surround myself with people who question, people who doubt. Those who say “this will never work”, even when it appears to be working.

They might be wrong – but at least they question the workings of a system. They question the processes, they question the results, they question how the results were obtained. There is never a right answer for them, and these negative attitudes may be construed as unhelpful by many businesses. I view them as the most helpful views of all.

You don’t have to take them at their word, but you should listen to them carefully. Their opinions are very often considered, thought through, and worthwhile – they’ve explored every angle, and they see the problems that you might not have seen.

I’m not doing this

 You might get frustrated by employees who act like three-year-olds, but like every three-year-old, there’s a reason behind their negativity. Here’s an opportunity, therefore, to sharpen up your act.

Why are they refusing to participate? Why are they not doing as you asked? There’s a chance that they haven’t fully understood why you’re asking them to do things, or that maybe, they just don’t agree with it. We’re not kids, we can have grown-up discussions and air our views, we don’t have to continually do everything we’re told to do in exchange for our monthly salary, do we?

Blindly believing that everyone will continually follow every order is naive, at best. A negative attitude may reflect on the way you’re managing that person, and can be managed better.

So – negative attitudes in the workplace. Perhaps it’s time to be more positive about them?

Managing Negative Attitudes in the Workplace

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How do you manage negative attitudes in the workplace?”

Sandy Arseneault, CHRP

Sandy Arseneault, CHRP

Negative Nancy and Negative Neil. I’m sure the majority of us can agree that we have come across one (or a few) in our careers. Now how do you properly manage their negative attitudes in the workplace? Before you answer “get rid of them”, as some managers commonly respond, let me ask you this: Are they really the problem? Nine times out of ten – No.

In my experience, a negative attitude is a result of one or more underlying sources. Of course, you cannot solve these issues without fully understanding them. How we do that is to dissect them. In our case, your first step is to identify the source. Your second step is then to develop ways in which to manage negative attitudes accordingly.

Identifying the Source of Negative Attitudes

It can be very difficult to understand negative attitudes without first discussing why these feelings exist. I suggest you start by having an open and honest discussion with the employee exhibiting negative behaviour. At this time, it is important to remember three (3) things:

  1. Give specific examples of the negative attitude(s) or behaviour observed over time,
  2. Use probing questions to identify what is causing the negative attitude and how any unresolved issues can become resolved, and
  3. Use active listening skills to clarify both the employee’s and the employer’s responsibilities moving forward.

If you use the above approaches, it becomes much easier to understand negative behaviour, and opens the floor to collaborative problem solving. Here, you want to discuss how the source can be improved (or best managed).

As you can imagine, or have seen first-hand as I have, negativity in the workplace can have dramatic affects on employee performance, the performance of colleagues and the profitability of an organization. Some sources you may have uncovered in your workplace include dissatisfaction or unhappiness with performance evaluations, leadership or management, working conditions, organizational practices or personal challenges. A negative attitude can also be the result of a misunderstanding or lack of information.

Managing Negative Attitudes

Although there are many sources of negative attitudes, I can attest to the fact that your strategy in approaching them must start with communication and follow up. To be clear, managing negative attitudes and their sources highly depends on your commitment to communicate with employees on a regular basis, to offer timely actions that improve the situation (i.e. follow up), and involving them in the process.

During my 6 years of experience as a stand-alone human resources professional in both the construction and manufacturing industry, I have encountered a colourful array of positive and negative attitudes. By far, the most common issue is dissatisfaction with performance management – “the continuous process of identifying, measuring and developing the performance of individuals and teams and aligning performance with the strategic goals of the organization” (Aguinis, 2009). Contacts who work in other industries have also asked me how they should deal with or manage similar issues with performance management systems of their own.

It is important to note here that there are several advantages to having a performance management system. These include increased motivation, self-esteem, and commitment; clarified expectations and organizational goals; organizational change; and timely differentiation between good and poor performers. However, many disadvantages can arise if a performance management system is poorly developed, implemented and/or maintained. An inadequate system can result in increased turnover, the use of misleading information, lowered self-esteem, wasted time and money, damaged relationships, decreased motivation, employee burnout and job dissatisfaction, unjustified demands from managers and employees, unfair standards and ratings, emerging biases and unclear rating systems (Aguinis, 2009). Do any of these drawbacks sound familiar?

Finally; no matter how many cases I have come across, the number one complaint is that employees feel their performance is not being assessed or documented correctly, or being evaluated consistently (if at all). Without fail, those feelings caused many employees to exhibit negative attitudes in the workplace. My advice in improving these  attitudes was (1) to obtain employee feedback through communication, (2) to seriously consider employee feedback, (3) to make changes wherever possible, and (4) to involve employees in the progression of change. In time, my advice helped managers develop new assessment tools (using employee feedback), better training for evaluators and evaluation schedules, and held managers more accountable. To everyone’s surprise (but my own), turnover became retention, attitudes were more positive and employees showed higher productivity – making the organization more successful.

So, to answer the question “How do you properly manage negative attitudes in the workplace?” I say, make a commitment to communicate with your staff, to take action in a timely manner, and to involve them in the process.

An article by: Sandy Arseneault, BBA  CHRP

 

Works Cited

Aguinis, H. (2009). Performance Management (2nd Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Is There a Right Way to Leave Your Job?

Bonnie Milne, PhD

Bonnie Milne, PhD

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “Is there a right way to quit your job?”

Oh my gosh – I hope so.

That’s my first reaction to the question. Like most HR people, I’ve been on both ends of resignations – the receiving and the giving. I was always surprised to receive a resignation because the people who were resigning had been very quiet about their plans until they materialized – that is until they were about to relocate or take on a new job.

I am not sure if I, on the other hand, was that discrete. I don’t have a ‘poker’ face so my intentions are usually quite easily read.

It is very difficult to leave a position without another one in hand so it is difficult to give your employer more than the required notice. I have also seen that those who are too open about their intentions are sidelined early. They are slowly, or sometimes quickly, excluded from the decision making process. Their colleagues disengage from them almost as a defense. After all, when you decide to leave an organization, it is the people you are leaving, and they will have an emotional response. While they may be happy for you, they may feel abandoned.

I remember one time when I resigned from a small organization to take on a new position and right after I announced that I was leaving, my colleague, who didn’t have another position to go to, also resigned. It turned out that she was fed up and thought leaving was the logical thing to do.

Unfortunately, although she felt fantastic at the time, it took a while for her to find work.
Something to think about is your letter of resignation which needs to stress the positive aspects of the job you are leaving. Sometimes a humourous resignation letter is in order, but only if you are on good terms with your supervisor!

Nathaniel Koloc, co-founder and CEO of ReWork, cites three reasons to leave your job, which I’ve elaborated on.

1. It just isn’t sustainable –it takes too much time, you don’t get paid enough or you simply hate going to work every day. I had two colleagues, in different organizations, who told me that every day before they could muster up the courage to go into their offices, they sat in their cars and cried. Can you imagine? One of them toughed it out and her boss eventually retired, the other one asked for a move and she is much happier now. Interestingly neither of them resigned.

2. It Isn’t Furthering Your Professional Development – our work should stretch us – not diminish us. We should have opportunities to learn and to expand our professional horizons, build communities of practice and mentor others. If these opportunities are not available, or our salaries don’t allow us to pursue, them then it is time to think about looking for something new.

3. Something Else (Way Better) Comes Along – Hmm – give your head a shake. This one should be a no-brainer, but many of us procrastinate, ‘Oh my resume isn’t quite ready!’ That’s my favorite! We let the opportunity pass by. Really, what is the worst that could happen? Take a chance, submit a gracious letter of resignation and move toward your dream!

Molly Ford has some great ideas for when the time comes for your to tender your resignation. Her advice includes: tell your boss first, and then your colleagues, all in person. Have a transition plan – make sure those loose ends are tied up, and prepare your reason for leaving. Keep it positive, as she notes; your colleagues are staying and there is no reason to make them feel badly about their work place, or, for that matter, about you! Her last piece of advice is to stay in touch.

I have resigned from a number of jobs and amazingly returned to three different organizations after resigning, including the one where I’m currently employed. So I know the value of staying positive and staying in touch. I usually update my former colleagues on my career and depending on how close we are, on my personal life as well. I follow up on their moves and provide encouragement.
I read recently that people have become commodities and we have to treat ourselves as a product. While I find that a very callous way of thinking about myself and my life; I do find that relationships often provide unexpected opportunities and that staying ‘up to date’ and ‘in the loop’ makes a positive difference in my career.

Food for thought, when it is time to tender that resignation!

Tips for Leaving the Right Way

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “Is there a right way to quit your job?”

Michelle Yao

Michelle Yao

Most of us have been there, finding the perfect job for you, while still working in your current job. We face the dilemma of what to do. Now there are good and bad ways to leave your job, but the preferred way is always to leave on good, or at least neutral terms. It’s always important that a former employer doesn’t have a bad impression of you. You never know who they know or who they might have a connection to. So in the spirit of leaving a job the right way, I thought I’d share some tips with you.

1.    Don’t let others know before you tell your boss

News travels fast, especially interesting, new news. It’s always professional courtesy to let your supervisor know what is happening first.

2.    Block off time to tell your boss in person

Letting your boss know in person is the most respectful, mature way to approach this matter.

3.    Give appropriate transition time

Two weeks is the general timeline. This gives you time to close off files and hand off projects.

4.    Make a transition binder

Sometimes you may not have time to do this, but leaving your replacement with a binder/guide enables them to understand your roles and responsibilities and shows your former employer that you are trying to proactively ease the transition.

5.    Ask for an exit interview

This will enable both you and your boss to discuss the challenge, successes and opportunities related to your job

While this is not an exhaustive list, it provides a frame when approaching this situation. Remember respect is key, as is courtesy. You want to approach leaving a job with the idea in mind that you should act as you would like others to act in this situation. When in doubt it is also very helpful to consult with a former Manager/Supervisor, or even a career coach, and to discuss any other suggestions/thoughts with them. It is also important to keep in mind that what works for some, may not work for you. So compile your own list of tips and tricks – decide what you are comfortable with when making your decision public.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Christine Ramage, CHRP

Christine Ramage, CHRP

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “Is there a right way to quit your job?”

I’ve heard it said that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave Managers. I will agree that a strong relationship with a manager an employee likes and respects goes a long way to staying at a job, but there will be times- and job offers- that compete with a great boss any day. That being said, I think that the employment relationship is like any relationship in life: it takes two sides to make it happen and that respectful, open and honest communication is key. Performance reviews keep employees performing and on track and allow for dialogue about career development and accompanying plans.

If the job the employee is in isn’t satisfying their needs financially, or developmentally, chances are the employees will leave- either way, it shouldn’t be a secret or a surprise.

If your mind is made up, and you have begun interviewing and if you feel it’s fair and appropriate, give your manager a heads up that your worklife isn’t working for you anymore; if you go about this in the right way, perhaps some open dialogue can positively and constructively impact your current role enough that your boss can sway you to stay. If not, at least you’ve been honourable with your boss that things need to change for you. This is a tricky path to walk so again, some circumstances this approach is appropriate and in some it’s not and may very well get you walked out the door! This is also the time that if its appropriate you can ask your current manager to be a reference for your next job- this request is easier if the new opportunity is one that your current Manager cannot offer you. Also, don’t lie about where you have been if you have been out on an interview. Either take a vacation day (or half day) or schedule interviews around your current work schedule. Having 2 doctors appointments the week before you resign screams “I was lying about where I really was…”.

But, to my main point about ‘quitting your job’, do it face to face. Like a breakup, suck it up and be honest. Request an appointment with your manager and tell them that you’ve accepted another opportunity and that you are giving your notice. Make sure you give at least 2 weeks, 3 to 4 weeks if you are supervisory and above, and offer to help create a transition plan for your work and knowledge. Give it in writing to protect your butt and your employers, if you don’t they will likely ask for it down the road. If you want to be a rock star, offer to update your job description or posting (if appropriate) for posting for a replacement, and begin tracking and documenting your work so that whoever replaces you has reference notes.

Be sensitive, tell your co-workers next, then keep a lid on your news until your manager has the opportunity to announce it to the organization. And last but not least, leave on a positive note- continue to work hard, uphold your standards and work ethic and try to take a few days off in between leaving you old job and starting your new job so you are well rested!

Is There a Right Way to Quit your Job?

Gareth Cartman

Gareth Cartman

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “Is there a right way to quit your job?”

“It’s not you, it’s me”… is what you’re meant to say.

There’s no easy way to quit your job, even when it’s pleasurable. You feel that you’re going to upset someone. You feel that someone’s going to be put out by your decision to move on and “fly the nest”.

Think again, though. If your business is put out at the thought of you leaving, then perhaps it’s not “fit for business”. If they’re going to be upset at your departure, that implies that you’re more important than you thought you were, and they’re not as prepared as they should be for the inevitable departure of their employees. If they value you so highly, they don’t deserve you.

You should only be worried if they roll out the bunting.

So is there any good way of quitting your job? How can you leave an organisation with a cheery goodbye and a pat on the back – and crucially, avoid being the one who gets blamed for everything that goes wrong for the next 6 months?

You have to do it right, for a multitude of reasons – you might meet these people a few years from now. You might even need a reference.

It’s all about timing

If you’re just starting a major project, or you’re halfway through it, handing in your notice is not going to be received well. It shows you don’t care – and as a result, you won’t be cared about too much during your notice period, or after it.

And quite right, too. You’re acting like a toddler. At least they have developing brains as an excuse (or so they claim). Stick around to see the job out, and then you can hand in your notice – you’ll be all the more appreciated for doing so, and won’t be seen as burning your bridges.

It’s not all about you

Remember, everyone leaves their job at some point. Otherwise, you become a “lifer” – one of those ghosts that walk around the same company they’ve been at since they were 14, having received twelve watches, three plaques and a massive leg of ham. Nobody works for legs of ham. You always have to move on, for sanity’s sake as much as progress.

But it’s not all about you. If your departure is going to disrupt the work of colleagues, then ensure that a smooth transition is in place. Promise to see out your full notice, and train someone else up to carry on your work. Promise to complete a certain workload, and work your notice period as you would any other. Perhaps you could even offer to support the interview process for your replacement.

Again, keep that goodwill. You never know, you might be working with these people in another organisation later down the line.

Remember, some people like their jobs

If you’ve just handed in your notice, and you’re thinking of trashing the company every day, putting your feet up and tripling your coffee breaks, have a little respect. There are people all around you who are trying to get ahead in their lives and their jobs – people who may – whisper it – still like their jobs.

There may be newbies around you who haven’t developed your level of cynicism yet. Give them time to grow into it. Don’t bang on about how brilliant your new job is, and don’t bang on about how crap your current job might be.

Again, you’re being a toddler. The business hasn’t changed – you have – and it’s time for you to move on. So do it quietly, and have some respect for those who aren’t yet ready to move on, or who view the business through a different lens.

Some things you should definitely avoid

Above all, please try to avoid doing the following:

· Handing in your notice by text message
· Being overly joyous about your imminent departure
· Calling your boss names and thinking you can get away with it
· Hiding dead fish inside computer towers on your last day
· Updating your Linkedin status to “Released from prison”
· Changing your screensaver to a countdown to your last day
· Whistling the tune to “I’m free to do whatever I want” as you walk around the office