How to Deal with the Office Debbie Downer

No matter what you call them, negative Ned, Debbie downer,  or just plain  “an employee with a bad attitude,” as a Human Resource professional, you’ve surely dealt with one over the course of your career. Of course the easiest solution is to fire, but that isn’t always a possibility. So what is the best course of action to take when dealing with an employee who exudes negative energy? There are many simple, free, and effective ways redirect bad employee behavior, which I will go over in this post.

The first step in dealing with any worker with an attitude problem, is to document all improper behavior, and how it negatively affected others around the workplace. It’s important to get several specific examples of their behavior to emphasize the fact that it is an on-going problem, not just an isolated incident. Once you have enough specific examples documented, it’s time to move on to the next step, confronting the employee.

 When you decide it’s time to confront the given employee with the list of their inappropriate behavior, set-up a private meeting with the employee, and come armed with your documentation. The employee will most likely justify their behavior, make excuses, and attempt to blame others, but you need to press on, and explain to them that their behavior is not only affecting the business, but the other employees as well. Also, be sure to point out positive and effective behavior of other, more optimistic employees, to give them an example of what works. Take whatever disciplinary action you deem appropriate and necessary after the meeting. Any negative behavior after the confrontation, can and should be punished.

Once the meeting has taken place, it’s important to take disciplinary measures each and every time an employee exhibits negative behavior. If it continues to be a problem, with all of the previous documentation, in addition to the new infractions, whatever reason you previously had for not being able to fire may have dissipated. If firing is still not an option, hopefully if you stay on it, they will learn to curb their negative tendencies.

Whatever the employees reason for being negative, these steps will surely force them to keep their negativity to themselves, quit, or deal with constant disciplinary action. These steps are the best course of action to take with negative employees because it gives the employee a chance to rectify their behavior, while still dealing with the problem for the company and the rest of the employees. While every Human Resource professional has surely hired an employee with an attitude problem at some point, there’s no reason to tolerate it.

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