Frontline Supervisor: Negativity at Work

Frontline Supervisor: Negativity at Work

On 3 Sep 2015, in Management, coaching, Workplace

Each month, "The Balance Sheet" provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that's important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people

Q. How can I help employees experience more positive communication and less negativity with one another?

A. When employee interaction is not positive, you’ll discover that workplace communication in general is often the culprit. Communication breakdown, a lack of information sharing, miscommunication and unresolved tension often feed the negativity. Do the following to improve employee communication: Beyond regular business matters, discuss the status of healthy communication among employees. Actually make workplace communication a meeting agenda item, because it really is a business matter. Ask, “Does anyone here have issues or concerns they would like to share or discuss regarding our communication with one another or within the organization?” “What about issues regarding our individual roles and duties? Is there anything there we need to discuss?” “What about unresolved resource issues, needs, or concerns?” Over time, you will witness less friction and less of a need to process these questions as positive attitudes return.

Q. Many changes are affecting our company, and employees complain often. What communication techniques can deflect some of this and encourage employees to take responsibility, cope, adapt and accept the changes?

A. Some employees will complain about change, while others will not. Forward-looking employees in the latter group may cope and adapt faster. Be empathic, but a reality check is also appropriate. Realize that accepting change usually includes a bit of denial, so some complaining can be expected. Let employees know you understand their fears and anxieties, but also say, “It is important for all of us to make a conscious decision that we will figure out how to face the difficulties ahead caused by change.” Show your strength. Say, “We’ll allow our survival instincts to turn on the creative juices so we spot solutions sooner and more clearly.” Send a message of expectation of self-reliance. This includes seeking support BJC EAP as needed. Encourage employees to have an attitude that focuses on what is within their control and that letting go of what is not within their control is part of adapting to change.

Q. One of my account executives is a very grumpy person. This irritated persona has been tolerated by coworkers mostly, I think, because we think it is just a personality style. I have never made this issue a performance matter, but I have thought about it. Is it too late?

A. It is not too late to get started, but there are steps to consider in helping your employee. You must document clearly what you and others witness so it can be used effectively in a constructive confrontation. This is not as easy as it sounds. Many supervisors struggle with how to describe behaviors that adversely affect performance, such as verbal tone, attitude and nonverbal communication. A consultation with BJC EAP can help immensely. Discuss your goal, take notes during your meeting and be clear on how you will communicate to the employee what you would like changed. Role playing can help. Chances are, you will see short-term improvement after the first meeting with your employee, but sustained improvement may not be forthcoming until underlying issues are addressed. That may require formal referral to BJC EAP.

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