What to Do With Negative Energy People

Don’t leave them in a job in which they can bring down the spirits of others.

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Michael Wade

Jack Welch once wrote about the importance of positive energy. He was describing individuals who bring a buoyant and enthusiastic approach to the job--they may be tackling a tough project, but they are excited and curious and filled with eagerness.

We appreciate these people because we’ve seen their opposites: the perpetual pessimists who, as Zig Ziglar quipped, brighten a room by leaving it. These characters can destroy a team’s morale within minutes and create an environment in which other people don’t want to come to work. They may be bright and talented but something happened along the way that soured them and they can’t wait to share the bad news.

Many will claim to have a serious commitment to the mission. They may express a simple desire to have matters run properly. That sounds nice, but if you watch carefully, you will see a certain gleam in their eyes when things go wrong. These are people who covet disasters. They will resist solution after solution, not because they are perfectionists, but because they don’t want a solution. They are strangely empowered by the negative. It shouldn’t be surprising that they don’t want the negative to go away.

What should be done with the negative energy people? The answer is simple: Get rid of them. Don’t leave them in a job in which they can bring down the spirits of others. If transfer or demotion will not solve the problem, they’ll have to be fired. They are a bad fit. Leaving them in place is unfair to the unfortunate associates who have to put up with them day after day.

It is also unfair to another group: the unemployed positive energy people who would love their jobs. Those folks are out there. Give them a chance.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.