Business Advice Centre

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Problem Solver: How can I improve the atmosphere among my staff?

Feargal Quinn

Published 11/02/2016 | 02:30

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Q: I am concerned about the negative atmosphere that is in my business among the ten staff. Every day is characterised by moaning and negativity and while I work really hard at trying to motivate the team, I could only class two of the ten as positive in their attitude with another two particularly negative in their outlook and the rest lying somewhere in between.

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A: I have read with interest over the last number of years some leading business people being very strong in their views that they do not tolerate negativity. It can be totally destructive and becomes almost like a cancer within the business, gradually reducing the atmosphere to one of constant 'doom and gloom'.

It is interesting to hear you say that you put a lot of energy and effort into trying to make it a good workplace so I can only conclude that the two most negative members of the team are not responding to the efforts you are making and have a significant influence over the majority of their colleagues. If I were in your shoes I would be doing lots of straight talking. Firstly with the two key individuals who seem most unhappy and then have a second meeting with the whole team. Your message needs to be very simple - there is no room for negativity within your business and your core interest lies in ideas and suggestions from the staff which will improve things.

You need to be crystal clear that from now on you have a zero tolerance for any unjustified negative comments.

It will be also important that you immediately commence work with the full team on building morale creating personal development plans for each individual on the team. Spend more time listening to those with constructive inputs, be seen to react quickly and implement good ideas. I also think the business would benefit from some of the team spending time either on third level education programmes or on work placements in other businesses in a similar industry to you so they can see and experience what the atmosphere is like in other operations.

I am sure there isn't anything that I have said that is radical or new to you, but what I am saying is this time do it all as part of a concerted effort and a very clear message about what you will and won't tolerate.

I have assumed from the information that you have given me that you are not the cause of the problem but it would be worth reflecting on whether there is any change required on your own.

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