Workshop: Personal Trainer

Q: One of my senior managers is grumpy and negative. He delivers but sets a bad tone. What should I do?

A: It takes all sorts to make a world - including a workplace. We all know that among any staff group there will be the 'chirpy chappy', always full of the joys of spring (even in the winter), the caring and sharing, the grumpy and those with a Napoleon complex.

Potentially, one of the joys of being a chief executive or director is bringing disparate and different colleagues together to form a productive and cohesive team. And if it is not a joy, then it is certainly key to your success as a leader.

Now what exactly is this person's problem? Is he simply grumpy by nature or is he frustrated in his job and really wants to move on? Is he disloyal and unsupportive of your overall mission? You have obviously got to talk to Mr Grumpy and try to get to the root of the real problem. Do not let this fester, as this will adversely affect his colleagues and hinder their efforts. If you can't sort it, then he must go.

Obviously, if his negativity has been spilling over to others then you have a bigger problem. There is nothing worse than in a team meeting to find a Ms Bright Spark announcing that, "we've done that before and it didn't work", or "well, that's clearly going to be disastrous". If there is a negative tone, it often inhibits others from coming forward with ideas or suggestions.

But a word of warning - I agree that negativity is no good, but we would all be heading for disaster if we were surrounded by happy optimists who refuse to countenance any problems or difficulties. It is always good to cast a deeply cynical eye over any bright new idea, government contract or trustee proposal. There is value in a diverse team: cynics and saints, optimist and pessimists. As we know, it is often useful to have different character types in our team. But you also need to know how to handle them appropriately.

But, overall, I am convinced that identifying the things that bring us success and, indeed, make us happy, is a better approach to life and work than focusing on problems.

If you look for problems, you will certainly find them. But an organisation that is committed, energetic and, dare I say it, happy is a pretty powerful force! If you have staff that cannot buy into that approach, or by their behaviour undermine it, then you know what you have to do!

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to: stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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