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I am interested to know what strategies people have had success with, when dealing with negative team members. I have recently taken a role as Team Lead for a relatively large group of engineers. One particular team member has expressed frustration about a perceived stagnation in his career. From what I've seen to date, the team (and company) have done a pretty poor job of people development and of providing critical or constructive feedback to those in need of it. This particular person has a tendency to come across as a negative individual, always fast to point out where things went wrong or where things are broken but not as quick on the draw to identify or suggest solutions. I strongly suspect this character trait is the major contributing factor to his career stagnation and I'd like to provide this feedback in as constructive a manner as possible.

I'd love to know what strategies people have used when providing this type of personality-centric feedback. I can imagine this person becoming defensive and "clamming-up" if not framed in the right manner

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    Is he negative towards himself or "the others, a.k.a. the company"? – Adam Smith Jan 7 '18 at 22:52
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    If he doesn't suggest a solution, ask for one? Repeat ad nauseam. – Dukeling Jan 7 '18 at 23:00
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    @Dukeling if he is not being constructive towards the company, I think this would be the right approach. The OP would acknowledge the problems presented by the employee, and he would then ask for help on how to solve them. – Adam Smith Jan 7 '18 at 23:06
  • Fight fire with fire. Two negatives make a positive. – Masked Man Jan 9 '18 at 13:28
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A couple of the reasons why an employee might be negative in his views: could be his personality, but most offten if the trait developed and became more pronounced as time passed its likely out of frustration with the group/company.

I would meet with him and determine in what way does he feel his carrer has stagnated and where would he like to see himself in x years.

I would then, with his help, make a plan for how to move his carrer along. Basicaly do what the group/company should have done all along.

Since you don't know the cause of his negativity don't mention it until it comes up again. It is very likely that if his negativity is because he is frustrated, having the plan put together may help him overcome it. Having said that, I would fully expect to have to intervene and curbe his negative behaviour as he is unlikely able to change overnight.

You should do that on a per need basis, this way you don't come out as atacking his personality but instead you are showing interest in his carrer something which he seems willing to improve. In this manner, he is likely to view your comments as constructive criticism with the goal of helping move his carrer along.

Hope this helps.

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Always begin in a positive way.

Joe, I've noticed that you are quite skilled with identifying problems.

then discuss areas where the person can improve.

I'd like to build on that with more feedback from you on how we can improve these situations which you've identified.

Note, there is no criticism in this approach, only identifying a strength, and then putting forth a challenge. One reason for negativity is frustration and feeling helpless or that one is not being listened to.

In taking this approach, you both put a positive light on his identifying problems, and giving him an outlet for his frustrations. Complainers are not necessarily a bad thing. They will tell you what is wrong, which is a good thing. I've seen what happens when management encourages only "yes men".

Another thing to note that someone who criticizes actually cares about what's going on. You can build on that. The ones you can't build on are the ones who have given up and say nothing.

Give this team member some one-on-one time and solicit his input, I'd wager he has quite a bit to say.

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