The Sour Attitude

The Sour Attitude

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We continue our series on the many difficult personalities to manage with a look at the sour attitude. If you haven’t read the first two articles in the series I strongly encourage you to go back and check them out here and here.

When I talk about the sour attitude I am referring to those people who just have a negative attitude. They don’t bring anything positive to the team and are always focused on the things that are wrong, often finding fault where there is none. These people will gossip, talk badly about their coworkers and the company, and always try to paint themselves as victims.

These people can poison a team quickly and must be dealt with and not allowed to spread their negative attitudes. I have found, and firmly believe, that we cannot change people. People are who they are and all you can do is to try to redirect them and give them incentives to encourage them to change their habits.

While there are certain things that you can do to manage them, and try to get them to focus on what their own issues, very often the best thing you can do with these people is to get them off the team, but this may not be an option due to your business policies or legal considerations.

So, let us assume for this discussion that we don’t have the authority to remove this individual from our team and our only option is to manage this personality type. First, as with almost all of the negative personalities we deal with, we have to focus their attention on what is within their control – themselves and their own actions.

You have to make them realize that they cannot change anything other than what they do and how they react to the circumstances they are given. They can choose to be negative in which case nothing will change, or they can choose to accept the circumstance and try to find positive outcomes that they can work toward.

It can be helpful with these people to sit them down and make a list of the positive actions they could take and the possible positive outcomes that could come from those actions. Help them to see what they can do to push things forward in a manner that brings them benefit.

When they complain about the company and all they perceive as wrong, help them to understand all the good that the company does to benefit them and the alternatives that exist in the world that they could find themselves in that do not offer the same benefits.

If you are getting complaints about them gossiping and creating conflict on the floor you need to address these issues immediately. Get specific details and document all occurrences. Work within your company’s policies, and with your HR department, to address issues as they happen and take disciplinary action as required.

Documenting all incidences of non-conformance with company policies and rules is essential and helps build a case for dismissing a troublesome employee. Make sure that you keep your HR department aware of all issues and share with them all your documentation. The more documentation you can provide, and the more consistently you address issues, the easier a job you make for your HR manager to back you up and defend a decision to separate from a destructive and negative employee.

Remember to set clear and consistent expectations. Hold these people accountable for their actions and never let them distract or obfuscate. Always keep the conversation with these people focused on the positive – the good in the job and the company. If they try to take you down into a rat hole don’t follow always control the conversation by steering them back to what is in their circle of influence.

Through consistent messaging, clear expectations, accountability, and good documentation you can manage a sour attitude, and if need be, make the case for removing them from your team. Always focus on the positive and never let this individual poison your team. Get the support of your HR department and provide them with good documentation to be able to deal with problematic employees. Remember the only things we have ultimate control over are our own thoughts and actions.

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