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OPINION: Prevent bad apples from spoiling your team

OPINION: Prevent bad apples from spoiling your team
bad apple saying cartoon illustration

By Nancy Friedman
“The Telephone Doctor”

Research shows that one employee with a negative attitude can infect your entire team with his defeatist behavior. To inoculate our staff from bad apples, we first need to understand why people adopt attitudes that seem to have no professional payoff. The answer: There may be a social reward.

An employee might make a negative comment for a laugh or to attempt to be part of a consensus.

The solution to negativity in the office is isolation. Remove the social incentive. Isolate the behavior through direct and assertive responses. For instance, after an employee makes a wisecrack about a new management focus, you could say, “I understand you feel that way, Chris, but I don’t, and I’m excited to hear about the new direction.” You remove the social incentive by showing that others on the team don’t share it.

The goal here is to respond politely. It doesn’t work to challenge the person by saying, “Why are you always so darn negative?”  because few people will ever agree that they’re negative.

Likewise, it doesn’t work to debate by saying, “You’re wrong about management. They have a good handle on things.” The negative person will simply counter with his own arguments. But a non-combative, polite response does work.

Here are two more examples:

  • “I hear what you’re saying, but I really like our new strategy. I’d like to give it a try.”
  • “You might think so, but I believe this campaign is going to work, and I’d like to learn more about it.”

Negativity spreads like a wildfire, bringing down morale, productivity, and financial results. Solve it with an isolating response made in a courteous, non-aggressive way. Just say that you respect their right to think as they do, but that you don’t share their attitude. Soon, they’ll decide there’s no reward in being negative.

Nancy Friedman, “The Telephone Doctor,” is a customer service expert whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. She will present “Telephone Inquiries Are Not Always about Price,” “Seven Traits of a Successful Leader,” and “Hell Hath No Fury like a Customer Scorned” Nov. 4 during the 2015 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo in Las Vegas.

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