I will be the first to admit that it only takes one or two bad apples to spoil the whole barrel, especially when it comes to rumors and general negative energy. If you have ever been on a team with a few glass-half-empty types, you know what I mean. They are what I like to think of as black holes for positive energy, and if left to their own devices can suck a whole lot of otherwise positive people in with them and make a manager’s job way harder than it should be. I have heard these types of people called a lot of things, most of which I am not going to repeat here (my mom has been known to occasionally read these blogs), though one that is fairly fitting is “cancer,” as in “Negative Nick is a cancer to my team.” There are a lot of reasons why this is apropos, for one, as with cancer the disease, there are a number of ways to deal with it: chemo, radiation, and surgery. Also, as is the case with the disease, none of them are pleasant, nor are they easy. In my limited experience with this disease, patients are usually given options on how to best fight the disease, with advice from their doctors. Some options are offered as better than others, but it is rare that a doctor comes in and says “surgery is the only option.” That being the case, why is it that when dealing with negative employees managers tend to take the HR equivalent to surgical approach? Put another way, why do we instantly go in and say “Negative Nick is a cancer, and the only way to deal with it is to cut it out.” Why don’t we instead say “Negative Nick is a cancer, what are my options?”
If the manager takes this approach, and consults with his or her super cool HR Geek, they might find that one option is counseling him regarding his behaviors (not his attitude), and what needs to be done to correct them. I think of this as more of the radiation therapy approach – where you target the issue and blast it with radiation. Another may be the chemo approach: sitting down and listen to him. Target your attention on him and understand what burr he has under his saddle. I think of this as chemo because it is pretty broad and you are going after all the cells that are causing the problems. Another option may be to move him to another, likely more positive team. I akin this to gene therapy, not only because you are looking for something a little more natural, but also because this is still fairly experimental… Of course sometimes the best (and only) thing to do is surgery, where you remove the mass (Negative Nick) from the body (the organization).
Are any of these guarantees? No. Even removing the main tumor doesn’t mean that the disease hasn’t spread. But sometimes going in straight for surgery can actually cause more harm than good. If Nick was well-liked, or his negativity was a result of other factors, by performing the surgery you may either cause the ugliness to spread or weaken the organization and thus make it more susceptible.
Note: I want to make very clear that if you are reading this, chances are you have been impacted by cancer – the disease – in some way or the other. Maybe you yourself are fighting it, or maybe someone you love is, or has, done battle with it in the past. I will tell you that the most important person in the entire world to me lost her dad to this horrible, wretched disease, so I want to state absolutely emphatically that I am not making light of the disease and my hat goes off to anyone and everyone who is working every day to make it a thing of the past.