How to deal with negativity in the workplace

The Robin Team
The Robin Team
Published on 

coworkers in office, one person working, two people whispering

Every job has its ups and downs. As a manager, part of your job is to motivate your team members. To be successful in doing that, you need to help your team ride the inevitable roller coaster of the business world and responding to negativity when they feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

Executive coach and Harvard Business Review contributor Peter Bregman offers tips for successfully responding to team members who are being negative and turning a tough moment into an opportunity for motivation.

1) Don't Fight Negativity With Positivity. Just Listen.

When someone sounds off about how frustrated he is,  our natural reaction is to "cheer him up." But what many people don't realize is how combative that cheerfulness can feel to the person who is overwhelmed.

When you are feeling like crap, the last thing you want to do is argue with somebody and defend why you feel like crap. You want to feel heard. Instead of immediately pointing out the positives of a situation, stop and just listen to what the frustrated person has to say.

2) Find Common Ground and Validate

You don't have to agree with all the specifics of the situation, but it's important that you sympathize. As you listen, find the concerns you can relate and tell the person that you understand.

Responding to specific statements with reactions like "I see how that would be annoying" or "I see why you reacted that way" reminds the team member that you want to be a part of the solution and that they aren't alone or "crazy" for seeing the situation as it is.

3) Reinforce Positive Statements

Listen closely for positive things that your frustrated team member points out, and support those. Once someone feels heard and supported, on his own he may come up with the positive suggestions. It's easy to see the good parts of your job when a very good part of it - a great manager - is standing right in front of you and supporting you.

How do you manage negative attitudes in the workplace? Let us know in the comments.