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Handling Negativity in a Startup

Throughout my career in small companies and large, I’ve always been appalled by the number of people who seem to complain all of the time. These people don’t seem to realize that they are hurting themselves, as well as other people’s productivity, and the company they are working for.

I’ve always thought that I might be overly sensitive, until I saw an old survey done by badbossoloy.com, which claims that a majority of employees spend 10 hours or more a month complaining or listening to others complain, and nearly one third spend 20 or more hours. No startup can afford that huge cost in emotional capital, as well as productivity!

In the survey, negativity is seen as an indictment of bad managers, but I believe it is also an indictment of whiners. Ten to twenty hours a month is a lot of time to waste, not to mention the indirect time lost of the listeners, and the morale impact.

What does all this mean, and how do you correct it, or prevent it in your startup? Here are some recommendations from experts for proactive and recovery actions by all parties to minimize the problem in both employee and management ranks:

Executives have to be the role model. If you as the founder, or other members your executive team are chronic complainers, the disease will spread rapidly through the rest of the organization. Don’t play the blame game, give negatively charged emotional speeches, berate employees in public, or wear an angry face at the office.

Use the hiring process effectively. Too many startups give short shrift to the hiring process, because they are too busy, don’t want to pay market prices, or have no experience. It’s actually easy to spot whiners during the interview process, by listening to them run down previous employers and not accepting accountability. Don’t hire them.

Encourage regular self-assessment. Encourage your management team and employees to always check themselves before making unsolicited comments against the following criteria: “Will this comment add value to our company, our customers, the person I am talking to…

Read more: Martin Zwilling, Startup Professionals

 

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