How to Reverse Negative Staff Attitudes

Employees and Companies Can Develop a Negative “Aura”

Just as some otherwise talented sports teams are accused of becoming “comfortable with losing,” employees and senior management of some companies develop a similar negative persona. Sometimes the reasons are obscure or even unidentifiable. A series of small setbacks, one major corporate setback, or a management team that consistently sends (often, unwittingly) negative messages to staff are often the cause.

Staff and management do not establish goals to infuse a negative culture into their department or company. The predominance of negativity is typically insidious because it happens over time. Much like the culture of “losing” that afflicts athletic teams, including the feeling that the players know the outcome before the game begins, some corporate teams, departments, and companies unknowingly adopt this attitude.

At other times, the reasons are not only obvious but understandable. Corporate downsizing, with many employees separated from the company, often create negative attitudes among the majority of remaining staff members. Unlike layoffs, which imply (at least) that the company will re-employ the separated employees, downsizing contains no such unwritten promise.

Unfortunately, downsizing indicates the former employees will not be rehired, which removes the always important human value of “hope.” When hope is removed from the personal or professional equation, a form of “workplace depression” often emerges. These negative attitudes can become damaging to performance, teamwork, and goal achievement.

The key for management is to identify negative staff attitudes and, once discovered, take immediate action to reverse these destructive issues and behaviours. Here are some suggestions for managers to consider.

Reversing Negative Staff Attitudes
Unfortunately, the reversal of negative staff attitudes cannot be compartmentalised into a simple, neat, and technical answer. Humans tend to be complex organisms. There is little consistency in their behaviour and attitudes. Further complicating this issue is the reason for the negative staff attitudes or behaviours. Understandably, management may not care about the motivation. Yet, they must take action to reverse the condition.

Some combination of the following actions often cures the problem.

  • Be upfront and acknowledge the negativity problem. At first, this may seem like a useless or, at best, ineffective activity. However, remember two things: The staff is well aware of the negativity of one or more team members. Second, management attempts at being “subtle” often indicate to employees that they (management) are either unaware of the problem or choose to ignore it. Acknowledging the negativity problem is a critical component to its resolution.
  • Display positive behaviour at all times. Much like political candidates and stage actors, management, regardless of their true feelings (they may also be a bit negative because of downsizing and uncertainty), must publicly display total positivity. Employees should witness the positive alternative to their negativity.
  • Publicly identify any and all positive issues. Unless the company has already scheduled a meeting with legal counsel to prepare Chapter 11 bankruptcy paperwork, the business has many positive features. These factors tend to be overlooked during conditions that generate negativity. Management should be diligent – and very vocal – with staff to identify every positive aspect of the company and its products or services.
  • Recognise every positive contribution by staff members. Always a successful procedure, public recognition of individual employee performance and contribution can be as “contagious” as its opposite – negativity. When management faces a negative-oriented staff, the importance and rewards of public recognition of superior performance take on majestic proportions.
  • Encourage individuals and teams to contribute to decision-making. The popular term is “empowerment” but that is more appropriate to textbooks. When management gives its staff the ability to contribute ideas and suggestions to marketing, operations, or financial policies, employees typically respond with great positivity.

As long as there is a world of business, management will encounter individual negative employees. When economic conditions, business reversals, or workplace problems exist, negativity can spread to groups of employees or entire staffs. Management must have a plan and respond quickly before this negativity affects staff performance in the long term. No company can sustain staff negativity for long periods.

Using some or all of the above suggestions, tailored to the specific problems of your company, could give you and other managers the effective tools to reverse negative staff attitudes and the damage that inevitably ensues. Managers who adopt these techniques often find that superiors appreciate their efforts and results.

Tips to help create a positive corporate culture

For years the subject of corporate culture was ignored, or at least downplayed, by management and experts alike. However, in recent years most observers acknowledge that corporate culture (or organizational behaviour) exists and, in some cases, plays an important role in the workplace.

Here are some suggestions to help you take control of your corporate environment and create a culture that attracts and retains good employees.

• While it’s true that excellent benefits are expensive, just consider the true cost of consistent staff turnover. Constant employee turnover may be the most expensive operating cost of all. Great benefits will encourage all employees to give serious thought before leaving your company since these may be harder to find in the marketplace.

• Give employees the opportunity to influence company decisions. While the perception of influence equals the reality, many companies have found that involving employees in operations and/or strategy decisions has generated some excellent suggestions. Occupying the operational front lines of implementing strategy, non-management employees often have a different and often effective outlook on company procedures.

• Share financial results with employees. Often called an “open-book” policy, many companies have generated newfound respect and loyalty from staff by keeping them up-to-date and on the same page with management.

• Publicly recognize employee performance, milestones, birthdays, etc. Don’t wait for major accomplishments to celebrate. Acknowledge all milestones, big and small. Your staff will not only appreciate these gestures personally, but they will tell their friends and potential future employees, too.

• Take an obvious interest in your stars. By making it clear you’re interested in your best employees’ thoughts, ideas and comments, you accomplish two motivational goals. First, you display that you appreciate and respect high performers, which typically creates more high-level results. Second, you tastefully indicate that other staff will receive the same personal interest from management if their performance reaches a high level.

• Offer varied opportunities for staff to get education, skill development and additional expertise. Implement liberal programs for continuing education, be it for formal degree programs, industry schools, seminars or any other teaching/training experience. Make these opportunities very public and supportive.

• Carefully strive for “meaningful depth” during candidate interviews. Consider conducting real behavioural interviews versus classic “What did you do? Where did you do it? When did you do it?” interviews. Try hard to find employees who “fit” your corporate culture to generate strong (and happy) team players.

• Install non-financial benefit items that improve corporate culture. Personal days, caring for a sick family member days, employee-of-the-week (month, quarter and year) awards, etc. are proven ways to generate a positive effect on corporate culture and employee loyalty.

• Always stay in “listening mode.” You may be pleasantly surprised at what your employees have to say if you convince them, through words and actions, that you’ll listen. Instead of having to repeatedly ask for feedback, your listening posture will elicit staff comments that you might find important and valuable.

Implementing these items (or combinations thereof) will help you create a positive corporate culture that should have lasting effects on your success in attracting and keeping the employees you want. Creating an environment that fulfils the objective and subjective needs of employees often creates (or changes) organizational behaviour that leads to improved performance and a more loyal staff. These actions can often be far more effective than the easy (and costly) method of simply increasing compensation.

7 Tips for Making Better Management Decisions

When you manage a business, you are constantly making decisions – often under pressure. How do you make the best possible decisions, knowing they will have an impact on your company’s future?

There are strategies you can use to avoid common pitfalls and hone your decision-making skills. Making better, faster decisions will help you take advantage of business opportunities and avoid pitfalls.

1. Reframe the problem
Backing up is sometimes the best way to move forward. When you are presented with a problem, step back and think about its full context. Try to see the issue from as many perspectives as possible. That will help ensure you are not emphasizing one aspect and neglecting others.

Begin by trying to think of at least 3 different ways of looking at the problem.

2. Make evidence-based decisions
The aim of evidence-based management (EBM) is to use scientific evidence when making decisions, rather than simply trusting one’s instincts. Like most people, you probably tend to use your judgement and to base your decisions on what is familiar. But experiences that you have had at other companies or in different circumstances may not apply to the situation at hand.

There are simple steps you can take to incorporate evidence into your decision making.

  • Use performance data to support your decisions. Get the most current and complete data possible.
  • Challenge your gut feelings. Is there any objective evidence to support them?
  • When a course of action is suggested, find out what it’s based on and whether it’s supported by data.
  • Determine whether commonly used business strategies have worked in a situation like yours. Will they apply to your particular case?
  • Check that the business data you come across are current and objective.

3. Challenge the status quo
People tend to choose the status quo over change, to stay in their comfort zone. But being comfortable with an approach may not be enough to justify it. Question whether you would choose a course of action if you weren’t already following it. Examine your options as realistically as possible. Don’t overstate the cost or the effort involved in making a change.

For example, if you were starting over, would you use the same marketing tactics to attract customers? Would you attend the same trade shows? Would you emphasize web-based marketing, direct mail or a mix? Don’t forget to find supporting data that will help you review your choices objectively.

4. Get an outside perspective…but trust yourself
Make it a habit to ask others for information and opinions. Be open-minded. Get a wide range of views, so you can see an issue from as many perspectives as possible.

Employee opinions count
Find ways to encourage information sharing in your company. Be open to plain talk and foster an atmosphere where people can be direct, even when the truth is unpleasant. Using performance evaluations is one way to encourage these values.

Deal with problems
If you want to consult others about a problem, be sure to consider it carefully from as many angles as possible before talking to them. That way, you will avoid being limited by their interpretations and ideas. Frame the problem in as many ways as you can, and then seek out others to see whether they can add to your understanding of the issue.

5. Develop an eye for risk
It’s possible to train yourself to look for all types of risks. Whenever you make a decision, ask yourself: If I make the wrong decision, how will I know it?

For example, if you are considering changing your transportation carrier to cut costs, think about how you would determine that you’d made the wrong decision.

  • Your service department would report more customer complaints about delayed orders.
  • You wouldn’t see cost savings at the end of the quarter.
  • Administration staff would complain of poor service from the new supplier.
  • The carrier could go out of business, leaving you to find a new supplier.

This type of exercise can help you see the potential pitfalls of a decision and take steps to avoid them.

Even a generally good plan will have costs and potential problems. Ask for information on how the plan could go wrong. Play the devil’s advocate. Examine all the evidence, both bad and good. Don’t underestimate the costs and effort required.

6. Let go of past mistakes
People have a tendency to make choices that justify past experiences, even when a previous decision has not worked out as well as they’d planned. We also tend to spend time and money fixing past problems, when it would be more useful to acknowledge the mistake and move on.

Making sound decisions means taking into account the evidence that is available at the time. Sometimes the context changes and that decision is no longer valid. Recognize that you made the best decision possible under the circumstances, and then review the situation to see whether a different decision is now called for.

In your company, take time to recognize employees who make good decisions based on sound evidence. Don’t focus exclusively on outcomes, as that approach can encourage employees to perpetuate mistakes by continuing to try to fix them.

7. Be honest with yourself
Before gathering evidence to make a decision, take time to review your own motivations. Is your mind already made up? Are you really gathering evidence objectively, or are you simply looking to confirm an existing idea?

Being aware of your own motivations can help you remain objective and focus on finding the best possible solution for your business.

Be decisive
Briskly proceed through the 7 previous steps and then make a decision.

Why Staffing?

Most businesses can use an extra set of hands to handle a big project or a new surge in business. But most are also reluctant to hire full-time staff. A staffing agency can provide temporary employees to help with a wide variety of business tasks. Working closely with the staffing agency, a hiring manager can ensure that temporary workers possess the needed skills, education and experience to meet the needs of the company. Read more about advantages of using staffing agency; Why Staffing?