How To Turn Employee Negatives Into Positives

The things that drive you crazy can often be turned into positives.

As a leader, you deal with a lot of frustration.

Some people are naturals when it comes to managing a team.

Others go crazy because it’s challenging to deal with the various traits of people. It’s especially challenging if you have a team that doesn’t share the same traits as you. It’s easy to think that your way is the best way. I’ve struggled with that over the years and still do.

But one thing I’m seeing in successful leaders is not the ability to change people, but seeing the positives to every situation including the traits of their teams.

People can change in a few ways. We learn. We adapt. But for a lot of things we don’t change. Or a certain change can take a lot of time and effort. And in a business setting that’s not always possible.

So it’s not a bad thing to go into a management situation and figure that people aren’t going to change. This allows you to move forward and figure out a better situation than just dealing with frustration.

Here are a couple steps for turning seemingly negative traits into positive traits.

Step #1. Assess The Employee’s Traits

The first step is to figure out what the employee’s traits and tendencies are. We each have our own idiosyncrasies. That’s where it can get really frustrating because not everyone will have the same traits as you. But if you can really figure out each of your team members you can set them up for success and by doing that you set your company (and yourself) up for success.

Some common frustrations often include:

  • Lateness
  • Nagging
  • Inability To Follow Instructions
  • Constant Negativity
  • Unwilling To Learn

There are plenty more, but we’ll use these to get started.

Step #2. Flip The Perception

Now it’s time to change the way you view those. The items above are things that most leaders would see as negative. And definitely as frustrating. If you’re always the first one into the office an employee that arrives later will drive you crazy…unless you change your perception.

Let’s flip the switch on each of the ones above:


The person might be late most of the time. That probably won’t change. Instead of forcing them to come in earlier, see if they might be interested in being your on-call person. Or perhaps you’re on the east coast and you have customers on the west coast. Put the late person in charge of handling the west coast customers.


If a person is always nagging others on the team about not doing things “the right way” it can drive others crazy. Even you. Use that trait to your advantage by putting that person in charge of organizational projects. They love organizing. They love figuring out solutions. They might not be the best person to manage people, but problem solving is a skill they have.

Inability To Follow Instructions

This could happen for a few reasons. The person may be head strong. Or they may just see other ways of doing something while still getting the same result. You could put this person in charge of improving processes. They see things different and that can be good for figuring out more efficient ways of doing things.

Constant Negativity

This can wear your team down. Get this person away from the people. They probably want to be isolated anyway. Put them in a problem identifying role. Have them report to you all the issues they see with the company. It’ll be better than running a customer survey.

Unwilling To Learn

Some people get to a position in life where they’re comfortable. They don’t want to learn because they don’t like change. They probably aren’t looking for a promotion or a new role. But they’re probably going to do the job they know and are comfortable with as good or better than anybody else. Do all you can do to make sure they can keep that position for as long as possible.

These are just a few examples hopefully to get you thinking about how to see negatives as potential positives.

Step #3. Look For Company Weakness & Employee Strengths

A last step in this process is to change the way you look at your company. Look for company weaknesses and ways to improve the company. When looking at employees, though, look for their strengths.

It’s possible to change the company. It’s processes. The way you do things.

It’s difficult to change people. But if you look for their strengths you can put them in the best suited position.

Final Thought

Part of a leader’s role is to get the most out of the team. That involves looking at strengths. That involves not letting the seemingly negative traits drag things down. And the great thing is that perceived negatives can often be turned into positives.

Imagine an NFL coach who has a receiver that can’t catch the ball, but can run like the wind. Instead of trying and trying to get the player to catch the deep throws better a great coach will use shorter passes or even handoffs to get the player running so they can use their speed and agility.

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