Building a Positive Workforce: Strategies for Coaching Negative Employees

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In any workplace, fostering a growth mindset and positivity is key to creating an environment where everyone is engaged, innovative, and fulfilled. But what do you do when you have a team that always brings down the mood? 

Addressing negative employees can be one of the most difficult tasks for leaders, especially if they haven’t had the opportunity to work on the art of having candid conversations.

The unfortunate reality is that every workplace will inevitably come across a team member who is resistant or negative. However, understanding the nuances of coaching employees with negative attitudes can help leaders create a company culture that encourages personal growth, collaboration, and overall team success. 

Let’s explore how to identify, address, and transform negativity into a constructive force. 

The Importance of Coaching Negative Employees 

It is tempting to ignore negative team members — and many leaders do just that — but this approach can often make the problem worse. 

Negative behavior can spread and cause stress for everyone involved, creating an unpleasant atmosphere that makes it harder for other team members to stay motivated and engaged. It can undermine collaboration, trust, and the sense of shared purpose that teams thrive on. A demoralized and disengaged team will be less productive, and negativity could also bring about high turnover rates. As such, managers need to tackle the issue head-on and implement strategies to coach employees with a negative attitude as soon as they notice it. 

Identifying Negative Behaviors 

Negativity manifests in many different ways, making it challenging to determine how to coach an employee with a bad attitude. 

Every person is different, but the general signs may include:

  • Frequent complaints about work, colleagues, or the organization. 
  • Showing resistance or reluctance to embrace changes in processes or procedures. 
  • Observable reductions in work output and efficiency. 
  • Consistently expressing a negative or defeatist attitude toward tasks, projects, or goals. 
  • A shift toward more critical, confrontational, or dismissive communication. 
  • Noticeable tension or strained relationships with other colleagues. 

Paying attention to changes in communication style and body language can provide valuable insights into an employee’s mindset. 

The Causes of Negative Behavior

Negative behaviors often stem from underlying issues. Effective coaching of employees with negative attitudes requires you to evaluate the root cause. 

Coaching negative employees involves examining all aspects of their lives. Activate 180’s coaching model approaches this by focusing on the five pillars of an employee’s well-being: life experiences, health and wellness, career and leadership development, relationships, and finances. By supporting employees as whole people, Activate 180 performance coaching can guide individuals to feel balanced. For example, an employee could be dealing with stress at home or with their finances, which can trickle into the workplace. A performance coach can support the employee in developing skills and strategies they need to overcome their challenges and reach their goals. 

How to Coach a Negative Employee 

Two Women In Office Boardroom During an Employee Coaching Session

Now let’s take a look at some actionable strategies for coaching an employee with a negative attitude. 

1. Use Open and Honest Communication 

The first step to addressing unwanted behavior is to create a safe and judgment-free space where team members feel comfortable expressing their concerns or frustrations. Otherwise, an employee may feel ambushed and criticized when they are approached. 

When addressing the employee, it is important to focus on the impact their behavior has on the team and workplace as a whole. Avoid making personal judgments, and instead, provide specific examples of how their actions have been disruptive. 

You might say, “When you come to work late and unprepared, it puts a strain on the rest of the team because they have to add your responsibilities onto their plates. This makes it difficult for us to meet our deadlines.” 

2. Tailor Your Approach to Individual Needs 

Each team member has a unique personality and their negative attitude may stem from many things. Therefore, the approach to coaching an employee with a negative attitude should be just as specialized. 

For example, an employee who is struggling with a specific task or project might benefit from a one-on-one session with their