A friend recently sent me a link to a reddit discussion board with the following heading:
“Managers of reddit, how do you handle a staff that is overwhelmingly negative? (self.AskReddit) submitted 1 year ago
I am a new manager in an organization in Baltimore, and these people make me want to jump out of my window. Superbowl or not, these people are so miserable its going to give me cancer.”
A little insensitive? Yes. But I like his/her candor. And it’s a real topic issue managers of people face. How do managers deal an employee base that is overwhelmingly negative?
The redditors responses were numerous and varied but there were two broad responses that emerged:
1. “Fire anyone with a bad attitude.”
God almighty. Firing naysayers is one of the worst things you can do. It’s one thing to fire someone who doesn’t execute the vision — I can get behind that. I could even get behind letting someone go whose bad attitude is coupled by poor performance… granted if you’ve got a culture problem, you’re just going to add to a looming turnover increase. But it’s another thing entirely to fire someone who exercises voice. And it’s T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Firing anyone who voices a problem or expresses discontentment just tells your people that their input is meaningless and you want drones. Most people don’t like to be thought of or treated as drones. I certainly don’t.
2. If you’ve got that many “miserable” people on your team, it’s not them… its you or management. Which means you/manager are responsible for making things change.
Probably so. If that type of attitude is systemic, you’ve got a culture problem which usually speaks to specific grievances that are felt throughout the organization. This is really rough news, because it’s never something that’s fixed over night and you’ve got to deal with employees’ mistrust before you can really get to the heart of the matter. Leadership has to be comfortable being accountable (which means authentically confronting a lot of unpleasant feedback), which is rough. Absolutely doable, but its a hard road. It’s also totally worth it for the sake of your employees and the bottom line. I’ve worked with companies that followed the advice from#1. They eventually came to conclusion that #2 was actually right.
#1 “Fire anyone with a bad attitude” is terrible/crappy/terribly crappy advice.
#2 Exercise serious skepticism on reddit.