August 8, 2019

Turnaround Tactics for Negative Environments

Turnaround Tactics for Negative Environments

The minute you feel a shift towards negativity in the workplace, it’s time to do some fast reconnaissance. Negativity in the work place can spread like a disease, causing lingering damage to a team’s culture, attitude, and motivation. Don’t ignore it!

Since approximately 70 percent of employees dislike their jobs, most managers will face the challenge of helping someone overcome a negative attitude on the job.

Even the best company cultures experience pockets of negativity, so having a plan in place to manage it is solid preparation. When negativity pops up, consider it an opportunity to learn and improve your plan.

Although your initial instinct might be to fire the employee doing damage to the company, it is important to seek the root cause of the negativity to see if the employee needs help and can be brought back on track with good coaching. The most direct way to work through negativity is to talk to your employees on how to solve it.

It is a manager’s job to redirect unmotivated or disruptive employees. Good parenting, good coaching and good management all benefit from using specific and positive reinforcement. Below are some tips to help you focus on the positive.

7 Ways to Create Positive Working Environments

Seek Positivity from the Start: When hiring, seek positive team members! Also, learn to spot patterns of negativity during the interview and the orientation period. If you are already seeing negativity in the first 90 days, it’s time to consider whether the hire is the right fit for your team.

Train the Employees to Focus on the Positive: During the onboarding process, introduce clear values and expectations about positivity and teamwork. Model the behavior you’d like to see in your team. Set a positive tone by starting all team and one-on-one meetings with a list of positives. What went well that week? What projects were enjoyable? With consistent effort, employees will learn to bring solutions, and not just complaints to meetings. Actively listen to negative feedback, but make sure the positive loop is always part of the process.

Create a Safe Environment: Let employees know you are promoting their success through team getaways, awards, coffee meetings, or continued learning opportunities. Regularly offer positive feedback on desired behavior. Offer it often. Employees love recognition for their work.

Identify the Reason for the Negativity: If the negative attitude or behavior is new, dig into the why of it and see how you can help. Is the employee ok? Are they going through a divorce or difficult time? Could they benefit from counseling? (You may share counseling resources, but not require counseling.) Set the tone with a caring and respectful attitude. The best managers take a genuine interest in those around them.

Cultivate Strengths in Your Employees: Especially when an initial conversation didn’t improve an employee’s negativity, focus your subsequent meetings on what is working, on what is possible, and on what can build pride and success. Look for the positive points in your employee. Look for the ways the employee is contributing to the team. Build those strengths instead berating an employee’s weaknesses.

Give Power to Your Employees: Once you have addressed issues with an employee, have worked on building their strengths, and have listened to their complaints, don’t tell them what to do!  Don’t focus on frustration or lack of action in the past. Ask your employee for their solutions. Ask what the employee thinks the next steps should be. Give them the freedom and control to come up with a plan which will be mutually beneficial for everyone. Once they have a solution in place, consider how you can help guide the process of improvement in the coming months.

Know When Enough Is Enough: If you have coached, encouraged and developed the employee and the situation has gone from negative to disgruntled or even toxic, it may be time for termination. If you follow the steps above, you will know you did your best to help the employee and solve the problem.

The Quick Guide to Dealing with Negative Behavior:


  • Address the negativity
  • Inform the employee about the impact of their behavior
  • Try to understand the root of the behavior
  • Focus on the good the employee is doing
  • Ask the employee how they plan to solve the problem
  • Ask the employee how to make their work more fulfilling
  • Create opportunities for learning
  • Make sure your company culture is clearly defined


  • Don’t ignore the negativity
  • Don’t try to fire an employee without just cause
  • Don’t complain about the situation to other team members

About the Author

PIASC is the largest graphic arts trade association in the country. They are devoted in helping members succeed. For over 80 years, they have been servicing businesses in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Kern, Ventura and Clark counties.

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