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I recently started a new job, and am working as part of a team with two other new employees. The company is in my opinion a good place to work with high levels of professionalism and great employee benefits compared to other places I have worked.

However, one of my new colleagues is incredibly negative. He has told me that he is not interested in the work, he is not a team player, he can't see the point of various exercises or team building activities. This is not my opinion of what he thinks its actual comments he has made to me!

When we are in meetings with no management present he acts bored, complains and has even held up messages behind our other colleagues back slagging her off (without her realising). But when management are around he acts positively and wants to take on responsibility for tasks.

I can't make out why he is acting like this, I've encountered negative people the workplace before but normally they are long standing employees that have become disillusioned. What would make a new employee act like this and, more importantly, how can I prevent this negativity rubbing off on me and preventing us from building a successful team?

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    Some people are idiots - the good news is that they always think they're being more secretive than they are. I'd carry on, concentrate on your own development and let nature take its course. In 6 months he'll be moaning about management have something against him and how very unfair the world is and then eventually he will go or you will move up and you can forget him. My one key advice is to, no matter how hard it is, ensure that he doesn't drag you down with his negativity and bad work ethic. – Dan May 8 '14 at 21:19
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    @Dan - That would be the base of a great answer – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 8 '14 at 21:44
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Some companies (especially successful ones) value morale and attitude, and may not tolerate this behavior. If his behaviour is as severe as you say it is, find out what the policies are, and if you can get the other employee to agree to back you up on his behavior you may have to report him or tolerate working with him.

If you can, block it out and do the best job you can, he either won't move up, or he will leave. I agree, working with someone like that just plain sucks. You say he acts positive in front of management, but his attitude may not carry over to his work in the long run.

If he is not actively disturbing you, and it is just in day to day conversation, you can be really positive, and point out all the things you like. Either he is going to be the sort of person that will fight you on it (in which case you can take it to a supervisor and quote him), or he may realize that you will not sympathize with his poor attitude and leave you alone. You may have to try and control the conversation in meetings, and make statements such as "Well, thats not really relevant we have to do that work anyways regardless of how you feel about it."

As to why he is so negative, some people, are by nature, incredibly negative. They may not even realize it (which doesn't excuse the behavior). They may have depression (in which case its up to him to seek treatment), be self-absorbed, or just plain believe the world owes them something in which case nothing will ever be good enough for them.

If he is actively interrupting your work you can bring up the fact that you are busy, you don't have a problem with whatever xyz negative issue he is bringing up, and that you would like to get on with it, and you rather like working there. If the behavior continues, this then becomes something you can bring to your supervisor and mention the fact that he is disturbing staff just to complain.

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When I've been around complainers I ask them if they know how to reach the people that can fix what they don't like. When someone is complaining about being bored, ask them what they should be doing that wouldn't be boring. If they have an alternative, see if you can find out why they're not doing it. If they can't think of any reason for their boredom, each time this question is raised it's likely that they have to think about their purpose in life. It might take a few weeks, but it's likely that their attitude would change.

In the meantime, this eventually becomes apparent to management, usually due to sloppy work, if any is done at all. That being the case, they'll be out the door in no time.

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I'd keep a log of every instance where your new colleague acts up including the witnesses to his behavior. Once I have a decent sized number of instances, I'd show him the log, let him read it and present him with a choice. He either stops whatever it is that he is doing and he stops it immediately, or the log gets emailed to management and HR where he gets an exclusive opportunity to explain himself.

I don't know what he thinks he is getting out of the way he is behaving, but that exhibitionist bad boy act has witnesses, some of whom may be promoted over him and who are not likely to forget his shenanigans. And as long as there are witnesses, he is feeding into the rumor mill. It would be a pity if he were an otherwise good employee, but some people go out of their way to screw themselves. I am fairly sure that he didn't act this way when he was interviewing.

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    Unless you are this person's supervisor I don't think logging instances of negativity is your business. – DJClayworth May 8 '14 at 21:39
  • @DJClayworth It's my business if he is affecting my productivity and the morale of my team. If you see me logging his activities, what are going to do, stop me? Between you and me, I don't think you can. Aside from that, undocumented allegations are hardly actionable and nobody strings up somebody else on the basis of undocumented allegations - I hope. Did you miss the part where he kisses up to management when management is present? – Vietnhi Phuvan May 8 '14 at 21:48
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    If I were a manager getting email like that, my first thought would be to reprimand the person who sent the email, especially considering that everything listed in the question are pretty minor issues, and that's not even considering knowing about the blackmail. ... And most people probably don't respond well to blackmail. While there may be some value in approaching the colleague and/or management about the issue, this isn't IMO the way to do it. – Dukeling May 8 '14 at 22:28
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    @VietnhiPhuvan Blackmailing a colleague is much worse than any behaviour you have described. If you believe "his opinions are of no import to me" then you are probably worse for team morale than anything he has done. – DJClayworth May 9 '14 at 3:40
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    @VietnhiPhuvan the point is this advice may fit you, but since you've not appointed anyone else to be "king (or queen) of patrolling the workplace" this is bad advice for others. – Raystafarian May 9 '14 at 12:29

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