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Updated: Jul 3, 2018

It can ruin your day: a colleague continuously complaining. Negativity within teams happens. How intense it happens matters a lot. It can ruin not only your day, but also the company goals set. How to break through such a negative team vibe?

Ask your team members what's on their mind

Most of the time, leaders are so busy, they do not notice problems within their team. They find out when the negative spiral has already started. By asking "How are you?" one-on-one, a lot of problems are solved before they sprout.

But what's the catch?

Never trust the team leader

It might be the case that your colleague hesitates to tell you anything. Then you've also identified a problem: they don't trust you. Trust is a fragile matter. It needs to grow.

It depends for instance on leading by example (show the trust you want to see), showing efforts to get to know your colleagues personally (real interest can be felt by heart, try it) and discouraging cliques within the company (open communication, skip the whispering highschool conversations). As trust rises, one will eventually tell you their personal problems.

Now you know, but what to do?

The worst thing to do, is doing nothing with the answers you've just got. Have you actually listened to their response? If not, ask over and over until you've figured out what's the main negative factor. Once you do, ask carefully:

As I am listening to your story, it seems that you feel .... about ..... Is my feeling correct?

Make clear that you are on the same page. Then tell your team member that you understand their problem (you now actually do) and that you'd like to help. Do they have an idea how you can help? If not, take some time to figure this out yourself and get back to them within a week.

It is not your problem

Negativity can originate from a broad spectrum of problems. Problems at home, health issues, financial problems, lack of confidence, frustrating team dynamics, you name it.

In dealing with negativity of fellow team members, one thing should be very clear in your head: it is not YOUR problem. You are here to HELP in learning your colleagues to solve the problems themselves. That's what real Vivacious Leaders do.

Vivacious leaders learn

If you solve the problem for them, they have not learned a thing. People stumble upon problems to learn and grow. So as a Vivacious Leader you step aside, look at the situation from a distance, figure out what's happening and show people (without judging!) the right skills to get to the next level themselves.

As one stepped into a huge, unbearable loan, it is not your loan. But you can help your colleague with a tactical plan to refund this loan. If one feels bullied by another colleague, you help by showing how to develop their self-esteem and communication to restore the balance within the team. When one finds it hard to communicate, develop an environment in which one is willing to communicate and experiences the progress.

Rule out negativity by providing knowledge. There's no failure. Only feedback. Uh.. feedforward.