Beware the Negative Employee

The warning beware the negative employee is important as at some point nearly every worker has an encounter with one. But just why is the warning so important?


It is highly likely you’ve worked both with people who demonstrate a consistent positive attitude as well as an ample number who invariably can put a damper on any gathering. You recognize them easily. Those that demonstrate a positive attitude make people have a sense of calm as day-to-day problems are resolved. They have the old “can do” approach to life and the sometimes unavoidable troubles. On the other hand, with the negative employee there is tension in the air, even sometimes an impending sense of doom. They see the bad in everything. Now, I’m not just talking about someone who can identify potential problems so that they can be avoided. Rather, I’m thinking about the person whose way of identifying problems is to see them as fatal to efforts. While you cannot always avoid them, you can learn to redirect them with how you respond, but first you need to be alert to when someone is becoming negative. That alertness and your response to these people is what I mean by beware the negative employee.

negative thinker

Company Atmosphere

Work will invariable have problems arise, but a company atmosphere where people believe things will work out in the end is far more conducive to resolving issues than one where one or more employees with negative attitudes create an impression that failure is just around the corner. The things people say greatly impact how people respond when things do get difficult. Consider these two statements. Employee A says, “This always happens. Nothing ever works the way it should” while employee B says, “Hmm. That didn’t work. Let’s see where we got off track, make a few changes and then try again.” Which employee do you think is most likely to solve the problem and keep others on board? In general, people want to minimize their time around a doom and gloom person. Atmosphere matters!


Even when hiring we need to be alert to someone’s attitude. For example, if you ask them to tell you about their last (or current) position and they lead with the negatives that can raise a red flag. It’s one thing to say, “I enjoyed my time there, but now want to develop some additional skills” or “I still like what I do at my current employer and really like the people I work with, but it’s clear that it is an industry that is not really growing. I like the challenges that growth brings, and that is why I’m exploring other opportunities.” On the other hand it’s quite different when a potential new hire says, “My last job or current job is the most boring thing in the world.” Well, what have they done to try relieving the boredom?

The Bottom Line and Word of Caution

Simply put, the bottom line is beware the negative employee is more than just a warning. It is a critical part of running a successful company where people enjoy working. Take a look around your own company. Do you have people that drag others down? If so, what can you do to turn them around? If you cannot do that then try to minimize their impact on the attitude of others.

Here is the word of caution. While an employee may indeed have a negative attitude, there are times, especially early on, when what appears to be an attitude issue is really more to do with how an employee is being managed. Remember, they are people and as such have both wants and needs. You can read more about that in 4 Wants and Needs of Employees.

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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