Do This to Manage Negative Attitudes and Still Have Productive Meetings

If you are a manager, you’ve probably experienced at least one of these scenarios:

  1. You or one of your top performing sales employees just uncovered a new market opportunity for the company, and you can’t wait to share this hot lead with your team.
  2. You or one of your product planners returned yesterday from an international trade event, bristling with new ideas based on the latest trends in your industry.
  3. You or one of your operations staff attended a short, management course in one of the following topics: Management by Objectives, Setting SMART goals, How to employ Best Practices, or a Six Sigma certification class — and now you want to implement what was learned right away.

But then, when you make your presentation to the team, the discussion goes off track almost immediately.


meeting goes unplanned
Image by Grit Ruhland,


Instead of a measured discussion of the pros and cons of a new idea, concept or opportunity, one of your employees starts to sway the opinion of the group, with harsh negative remarks like these:

  • “Oh we tried that 10 years ago, and it was a complete failure.”
  • “There’s no way we could pull that off with our tiny budgets, we are way too small.”
  • “Here we go again with more fire drill changes that won’t make a difference by this time next year.”

“What just happened?” you ask yourself. Is it possible that one person can derail an idea even before a real discussion can get off the ground?

The answer is yes (possibly).

It’s quite possible that even one single employee with a negative attitude can spread their negativity across the organization, resulting in wasted time, loss of more productive employees electing to go elsewhere, reduced company morale, and diminished growth and profit expectations.


Part 1: How to Handle Negativity as a Manager

When you encounter negativity on your team, as a manager, you need to take action. Here are some concrete steps can use to take back control and change the situation.


1.  Check yourself.  As a Manager, are You Overreacting or Being Too Sensitive? Does the Problem Lie with Yourself?

In the rhetorical question above, we asked if it was possible for one single individual to be the source of negativity.

Now we have to ask a very difficult question… are you the one who is contributing to the negativity on your team?

Take a moment and step back: are you guilty of criticizing, interrupting, judging, and being condescending to your employees? Have you played favorites or passed judgment without the facts?


2. Check In with Your Support System

If your gut-check says you are not the source of the problem, then it’s a good idea to make contact with some of your trusted colleagues or mentors.

Had they seen the same problem in the workplace? What is their opinion?


3. Choose Your Battles Wisely

If your trusted colleagues confirm your suspicions that an individual or group of individuals is the source of negativity in the workplace, then you have to think about a corrective strategy.

Ask yourself if this was a one-time situation which could easily be overlooked, or if it’s the beginning of a behavioral trend that could spread throughout the organization.

Is now the right time to act or is it better to monitor the situation further?


4. Stay Positive. Avoid Being Drawn Into Drama.

Negativity in the workplace can oftentimes play out like an emotional drama.

If a person’s negative behavior is irrational, there’s no point in trying to argue with them about their viewpoint.

Instead, stays focused on the positive and remain optimistic. This will help provide guidance to your other team members.


5. Understanding the Root Causes of Negative Behavior

Negativity can sometimes be deep-seated and difficult to change.

Some psychologists think people who constantly express overly negative thoughts actually have an underlying unmet need for appreciation and acceptance. They also seem to suffer from a fear of rejection.


6.  Field Guide to Negative Behavior in the Workplace

When assessing negative behavior in the workplace, there are two broad categories: aggressive and passive negative behavior.


Negative Behavior in the Workplace

Aggressive Negative Behaviors Passive Negative Behaviors
Complainer Whines about everything, all is bad Single Word Responder Avoids participation and responsibility 
Bulldozer There is one way, their way  Know-it-All Expert who works solo and has to be right
Tantrum Thrower Explodes with rage Analysis Paralysis Can’t make a decision
Backstabber Makes alternating promises and lies Paper Pusher Bureaucratic rules must govern all actions
Hero Syndrome Believes only they can solve problem Clock Watcher Goes through motions, doesn’t contribute


7. Set a Corrective Course by Confronting Negative Behavior

Once you’ve identified the negative behavior that you’d like to correct, create a step-by-step plan that will give the employee an opportunity to change their behavior over a set period of time to stay with the organization.

Important: you will need to thoroughly document the process of working with the employee, including meetings, conversations, emails, and written objectives.

It’s important to meet with your employee at the right place at the right time, in a private place where you feel comfortable and have enough time to discuss the issue in depth as needed.

You need to stay calm but firmly stick to the issue. Often, managers practice what they will say to their employees before meeting with them.

Establish with the employee that there will be time-based goals for changing their behavior and consequences if the goals are not met.

The change will not happen overnight. As a manager, your goal should be working toward steady, incremental changes. Reinforce positive behaviors and follow up on a regular basis, while continuing to document the process.

By the end of the timeframe outlined in your original plan, it should become clear to you, and your employee, whether they have been able to meet their objectives or they need to separate from the organization.

If you encounter underlying issues that go beyond the scope of your role as a manager, such as troubling personal issues the employee is experiencing at home, arrange for your employee to speak with the employee assistance program in your company’s human resources department.


Part 2: How to Have Productive Meetings

Now that we talked about ways you can reduce or eliminate the effects of negativity in the workplace, all your problems as a manager should be solved, right?

In other words, when you’re ready to pitch that new idea, pursue that sales opportunity, or implement a new approach to managing workflow, everything should go swimmingly now that negativity is under control, right?

Well…not necessarily.

unproductive meeting
Image by

Meetings can still go off the rails, even when everyone is an enthusiastic, positive participant. But here are our tips for creating productive meetings:

1. There is an Art to Scheduling Meetings

Don’t dismiss scheduling issues as just boring organizational nuts and bolts issues. Choosing the right date, time, and location for a meeting can really alter how receptive people are to participating.

Within your organization, try to establish standing meetings on the same day each week so that people can schedule their time. You might consider establishing some no meeting days, which allow people to concentrate on their jobs, rather than marching from meeting to meeting.

When you schedule meetings, consider how off-site employees or those who are traveling will be able to call in.

If the meeting is for decision-making or planning, try to limit it to no more than 10 participants.


2. Determine the Objective of the Meeting and Communicate it in Advance using an Agenda Template

There are different types of meetings for various situations. You need to understand what your objective goal is for the meeting. Is it to communicate news to a large audience? Is it a working meeting to generate ideas and make decisions about new plans?

Create an agenda in advance, using a standardized agenda template.

What happens if there’s not much on your agenda? You should seriously consider why you need a meeting in the first place. Perhaps the information can be communicated in other ways, such as email.


3. Start and End on Time. Shorter is better.

Make your meeting as long as it needs to be and no longer.

Why not have a meeting for just 20 minutes? If you go longer than 30 minutes, schedule a break to stand up and stretch.

Show respect to your participants by beginning and ending your meeting on time.

If your meeting lasts longer than scheduled, it can have a cascading effect that impacts a much larger group of people who are late to other scheduled activities.

Want to ensure short meetings that start and end on time? Try one of our Formaspace adjustable height conference tables. You can raise the table height to a standing level for the duration of your meeting – this has a magical effect on participants – everyone stays focused and on point when they are standing up.


standing collaborative meeting table
Standing Collaborative Meeting Table

4.  Establish Effective Ground Rules and Clear Functional Roles for Conducting Meetings

Make sure you include a review of the ground rules on the meeting agenda.

Who will be Timekeeper to make sure each agenda item gets its allotted time and no more? Who will be the Recorder responsible for taking official notes; and who will be the Facilitator leading the discussions?


5.  Check-In with Participants

If it’s a decision-making or planning type meeting, allocate enough time for some structured social banter to get people in the mood for participating, just don’t go on too long. This also allows you to verify the telecommunications for off-site participants.

Try asking each participant what is the best thing that happened since the group last met, and what has been the most challenging.


6.  Review the Action Items from the Previous Meeting

If this is a decision-making or planning type meeting, it’s important to hold people accountable. Quickly review the action items set forth at the so that the participants are focused on the objectives.


7.  Recognize the Limits of Problem-Solving during a Meeting

This tip goes back to the objective of the meeting. If this is a review and planning type meeting, you need to be realistic about how much problem-solving can be done in a limited time.

Reasonable expectation: it’s reasonable to bring forward issues that affect other departments or to get input, such as through brainstorming sessions, to gather a wide range of ideas that can help solve a problem.

Unreasonable expectation: it’s not reasonable to expect to solve detailed problems during a meeting. Rather, participants should take the input given at the meeting and go work on alternate solutions between now and time for the next meeting, where they should present viable alternative solutions to make a final decision or establish an action plan.


8. Prevent Brainstorming from Devolving into Blamestorming

Brainstorming is a good way to get input from a broad set of perspectives, but be careful to follow these guidelines:

Don’t criticize an idea put forth during brainstorming. Even the most seemingly off-the-wall comment can often help bring forth the creative solution to a problem.

Don’t use brainstorming sessions as a pretext for assigning blame to other team members or departments — an unhealthy practice known as a blamestorming session.

Be sure to use a timer to not lose track of time.


9. Determine a Mutually Agreeable Action Plan

A good facilitator can help bring together opposing views to help craft an action plan.

Be sure to assign each action item to a single individual who has direct responsibility for shepherding the action item to completion.


10. Summarize Decisions Made During the Meeting

Before the meeting ends, summarize which action items have been resolved and which action items are pending, along with the details of the assignments and the owners of the action items.


11. Evaluate Task Projects against Goals and Identify Ways to Improve the Next Meeting

The second-to-last step during the meeting is to assess the decisions that you’ve made in this session in light of your overall company or project goals. Are you on track, or are you falling behind?

The final step is to identify ways to improve and to establish the proposed agenda for the next meeting.


12. Send out Timely Meeting Notes

Once the meeting concludes, get those meeting notes out as quickly as possible. The meeting notes will reiterate who was responsible for what action items. This will reinforce the expectations for the next meeting.

You can also include the agenda of the following meeting (if it’s approved) which will cut down on one additional email in your team members’ inboxes.


Formaspace Wants You to Be Organized, Productive, and Successful in Your Line of Work

From Fortune 100 industry giants to the local business just around the corner, Formaspace’s clients know how committed we are to helping them work smarter and get more accomplished each business day.

Can we help you too?  You bet.

Contact a Formaspace Design Consultant today to learn more about how your office can become more efficient and productive.


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