Tired of whining and complaining
Left unchecked, negativity can poison the workplace and undermine productivity.
Veteran employees generally dismiss the rantings of a single negative co-worker, but new hires can be very vulnerable.
That’s the situation manager Amy Colton faced when one of her bright new hires was getting dragged down by a co-worker’s negative comments.
‘Dying to get a job like this’
New employee Sally Brown knocked shyly on Amy’s door.
“Got a minute?” Sally asked.
“Sure,” Amy said. “How’s the job going so far? I know the first month can be overwhelming.”
“Oh, I love the job,” Sally said. “I’ve been dying to get a job like this.”
Would rather not sit next to Eric
“Great, so anything I can help you with?” Amy asked.
“I…er…don’t know how to ask this…”
“Well, just go ahead and ask.” Amy said.
“Well, I know I haven’t been here very long, but I was wondering if I could move to another cubicle?” Sally asked.
“We’re tight on space, Sally, is something wrong?” Amy asked.
“Id rather not sit next to Eric.”
‘He complains about everything’
Amy cringed as the possibility of sexual harassment flashed through her mind. “Did he do something inappropriate?”
“Oh no, nothing like that,” Sally said. “I just can’t be around such a negative person.”
Amy was relieved. “Well, I know he can be a little annoying. What do you mean?”
“He complains about everything. He complains that he has too much work. When the work is given to someone else, he complains that he’s being left out of the loop… The coffee in the break room sucks… He whines about his salary… Everyone else is an idiot… It’s too depressing,” Sally said.
The Big Question
Amy knew Eric was a grouser. It had never hurt his performance, but his behavior was clearly affecting Sally.
Sally was a great new hire and Amy didn’t want Eric poisoning the well for her. She needed to take some action, but wasn’t sure what the next step should be.
If you were in Amy’s situation, what would you do? One of the ideas below offered by our readers might provide you with some guidance
1) Decide who has the problem first
I’d have to investigate to see if the issue was Sally being too sensitive or Eric being too negative. If Sally’s perceiving this and others aren’t, then I’d bring her in and try to get her real issue out. If Eric was the problem, I’d make him aware of the issue. Most people don’t realize something like this until it’s brought to their attention. Usually they turn around pretty quickly. But his comments, especially about salary, were negative towards the company. One of our rules is you can’t bad mouth the company. I’d give him goals for improvement. If he didn’t meet them I’d consider termination.
– Susan Strassner, HR Manager, West Pharmaceutical Services, Montgomery, PA
2) Let him vent to the ones who can change things
Eric’s negativity isn’t the issue here. It’s his expression. He’s disrupting Sally, and surely others in the work area. That affects the whole company. I’d tell him if he has something negative to say about the company, discuss it with me. I can help him see why things are done a certain way. If he’s given the opportunity to discuss complaints directly with management and if he continues to talk negatively behind our back, the niceties would end. He’d be ordered to stop and if he did it agao he’d be written up. Continuing would most likely lead to dismissal.
– David Wasson, Assistant GM, Benbrook Water Authority, Benbrook, TX