How to Deal with Negative Employees

Great service is often the reason why customers shop at small businesses. And your employees are the ones who deliver it. So when a staff member’s negativity compromises your service levels, the business suffers. That’s why it’s important to take action. Consider these ideas to deal with negative employees and improve their performance (or take corrective action, if needed).

Everyone can have an off day. But a pattern of negativity is a symptom of something more serious. It gets reflected in a poor customer experience. But it can also harm the morale of other staff members. If left unchecked, it can damage your brand and your business’s ability to grow.

Take a look at these guidelines to address negativity in your small business:

  • Focus on performance – It’s easy for this issue to take on an emotional component. So focus on how it impacts job performance. That puts the attention on what they do rather than on them personally. For example, “When you are rude to a customer, it escalates the interaction and prolongs the time you spend with one customer (and prevents you from helping others). It can also reduce the number of return visits to our store.”
  • Provide specific feedback – Telling an employee that they have a “bad attitude” isn’t very helpful. They need more information. Instead, your statement should include three parts:
  1. Identify the specific behavior you observe. “I observed three times today that you did not greet a customer when they came into the store.”
  2. Tell them the impact. “You’re missing an opportunity to engage the customer and answer any questions.”
  3. Set expectation. “Next time, I want you to acknowledge the customer with a verbal greeting within the first ten seconds after they come in the store.”
  • Listen for a while – Give employees a chance to respond. It gives them a chance to be heard. And you might just learn something you didn’t know. If it develops into an unproductive rant, you can steer it back by focusing on performance again.
  • Coach for results – Be sure the employees have the tools to improve. That might mean additional training. For example, maybe they don’t greet customers because they’re afraid they won’t be able to answer their question. Role-play common questions to develop their confidence. Make it a point to catch them doing the right thing later and reinforce it.
  • Deliver consequences if needed – Establish a specific date when you expect to see an improvement. When the date arrives, review their performance against the standard and take the necessary action. That may be a warning, dock in pay, withdrawal of a privilege or dismissal. Your action shouldn’t be a surprise to the employee since it was part of your earlier feedback.

A pattern of negative behavior shouldn’t be ignored. It can damage how customers perceive you and can spread to other employees. Consider these suggestions to help get your business back on track.

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