Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Category Archives: Bad Habits

Simple Steps to Quell the Office Critic

By Chemeketa SBDC

A wealth of current research tells us that the most critical factor in controlling undesirable turnover and increasing retention of talented people are the skills of managers. People join companies but they leave managers. Satisfied employees are critical to the success of your business. If they’re not happy on the job, customers are not happy being with them.

So what do you do when you have an employee who is just not happy? Every business can have “the glass is half empty” person on the lookout for something to go wrong. You can recognize them — they spend the majority of the day in a negative slump and critical of everything from projects to people.

The “it will never work” attitude also can devastate your company morale. You may start to notice that other employees — once happy, motivated people — are starting to gossip and criticize. When it comes down to it, negativity is like the flu: It’s contagious. It’s also expensive. Negativity costs companies millions in terms of productivity and profitability.

So how do you deal with an employee whose negativity is starting to rub off on other people? Our first instinct may be that the person’s behavior is just about their “bad attitude” and ignore it. Not a great idea. This can actually fuel the fire by setting a culture of negativity. In fact, if we do nothing about the negativity — we are condoning the behavior and subsequently, endorsing it. You do need to take some action.

Often at the heart of a “negaholic” attitude are fear and uncertainty. Change is the biggest single cause of workplace negativity. Even if that new billing system is for the better, people will automatically ask themselves: What am I losing? For employees, change automatically equals the loss of something comfortable — and they will resist it.

Here are some simple steps for quelling the office critic, paraphrased from some great work by Chris Penttila, a freelance journalist.

1. Understand change from the employee’s perspective. Employees can put up with change as long as they can talk openly about it. Remember most negative people don’t know that they’re negative because no one ever tells them.

2. Find the fear, then focus on solutions. Teach negative employees to focus on offering solutions, not just criticism. Turning the griper into a solution provider gives them a genuine avenue to contribute.

3. Do some coaching. Work with the negative person on improving their attitude. Chances are, these people are complaining because they think they have good ideas that haven’t been heard.

Ultimately, employers can work too long and hard with some negative people when it’s better just to cut your losses, recognizing a bad fit. If there’s no improvement after three to six months, maybe it’s time to let them go (legally, documented, etc., of course).

After you let a negative person go, talk with employees about the future of their workplace. It can be the perfect opportunity to take the pulse of your company culture.


Bad Habits That Can Derail Your Business

By Chemeketa SBDC

Can we talk about your habits? Well, how about the ones that affect your business then? We all do things habitually, for better or worse, and those things have a direct bearing on the success (or not) of our businesses. Here’s a handful of them to watch out for.

• Indecisiveness. You know this one, it’s where you stall out on decision making. Perhaps you let the day to day small tasks of your business keep your attention away from the decisions you know you need to make, and so you just don’t make them. Or perhaps you wait (and wait and wait) for the one key piece of information you need. And you put off making a decision that will make a big difference for your business. And you do it repeatedly.

• Being penny-wise. In other words, cheaping out and saving small amounts of money when a wiser spending decision would bring a far richer return on investment. Businesses cost money to run and to grow. Naturally you shouldn’t run around wasting money left and right, but the opposite of this is hanging on to every nickel at the expense of strategic spending decisions.

• Allowing day to day chaos and noise to distract you from what’s strategically important. Also known as “putting out fires” all day long, this habit solves the urgent and immediate but doesn’t help you lay out long-term plans and direction. This is also known as being held hostage to the “tyranny of the urgent.”

• Waiting for the ideal time before doing something. Unfortunately there usually isn’t a perfect time for things. If this is a good, or good enough, time to make something happen…then seize it and make good on it. This habit of waiting is a cousin to the habit of indecisiveness. Also known as spinning your wheels, it doesn’t move you forward. If I offered to give you a million dollars if you made a decision about something in the next half hour, I’ll bet you could do it, right? And that means you don’t have a problem making a decision, you have a problem choosing to make a decision.

Be honest with yourself about some of this stuff and how it’s affecting your business. What small changes can you make right now in your habits that will benefit your business a good deal in the future?