In my work with a multi-location non-profit I keep hearing about miserable employees. This organization is in the business of providing education, programs and training and group homes for individuals with disabilities. They have plenty of work, achieve award winning results and yet some people bring persistent negativity to their job. I have been told, “Every department has one person who is miserable, that’s just the way it is.”
It’s good news that they have a brand new Executive Director and understand the impact of change on the organization. But when an organization is trying to grow and move forward how do you eliminate or at least neutralize the negativity?
It’s not the first time I’ve heard complaints about miserable workers. I’ve worked with them too. In situations where they persist and spread their gloom, bringing co-workers into their fold, the employer has implicitly accepted this behavior.
As the senior HR professional at a start up I had the opportunity to manage the growth of an employee population from 12 to more than 750. The quality of our employees was an integral part of the company culture. Miserable people were not part of the formula. One of my peers, Frank Speranza, often repeated the mantra, “We want winners, not whiners.”
Today Speranza works with employers to hire the very best candidates as President of Hospitality Talent Scouts. Speranza knows that, “Candidates who complain about bosses, co-workers and customers will be a negative force and don’t get recommended to my clients.” That candidate you just met who seems to look at the glass as always half empty won’t change his tune if he becomes your employee.
If that whiny employee has slipped through the cracks or you have inherited one on your team don’t let her spread their malaise. The next time they start with a string of negatives take the time to listen. Then ask them, “What are you going to do about it?” “How can you change the situation?” Make certain they know that improvement comes not just from complaining but from taking steps to correct a problem.
We have all worked with people who have endured what seems like a lifetime of bad luck in their personal life yet they are still a positive force in the workplace. The employee who complains and whines can make the same choice and see the glass as half, or even three-quarters, full.