Lauren: When you ask what to do about your employee, I am guessing that it is difficult to work with a negative person and you would like him to change. So, I am assuming that your question might really be, “how can I get him to be more positive?”
With that in mind, I’ll ask you some questions about your employee (we’ll call him Bill) and then I’ll ask you a couple of questions about who you are being in this and its impact on you.
Questions about Bill:
What does his negativity get him?
In what ways does his attitude impact his productivity?
What does he need from working, other than a pay check?
How does being negative allow him to reach his goals?
How could being more positive allow him to reach more of his goals?
What is he positive about?
What situations exaggerate his negativity?
What makes Bill unique?
What is his awareness of this character trait?
Questions for you:
If you recently noticed this about Bill, what changed?
If it’s been as long as you can remember, why are you dealing with it now?
What could you have more of if you weren’t dealing with this?
What more could you accomplish if this weren’t on your mind?
How have you dealt with negative people in the past, perhaps with other employees or even your children?
If he were suddenly more positive would you be happy with him?
How committed are you to working this out with him?
What would the office look like if there were a different, but capable, positive person in Bill’s place?
What’s stopping you from talking with him about his attitude?
I presume you already subscribe to the idea that you cannot change someone else. Only Bill can choose to do that for himself. We each get to write our own story. Given that, let’s look at the obvious, i.e. something you can control. You could change your attitude toward him or about him, but the question remains, will that be enough? If you have noticed this pattern in Bill, so have others. While shifting your own perspective can be the best medicine for you, it won’t likely change the atmosphere at your office which means that one person is dictating the environment for all (and it’s not you). The pebble left in the shoe needs to be dealt with to avoid greater irritation. My suggestion is that you write out the answers to the questions above and decide who is setting the tone in your office so it’s an enjoyable place for everyone. If you’re not ready to deal with that now, how far are you willing to let this go? What will the final straw look like, and when you get there, will you be at choice or will you feel like your back is against a wall?