The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: “He’s too negative...”

Question: I manage a team and one of its members is extremely negative. It’s having a detrimental effect on the team. Have you got any quick ideas for me? Simon

Answer: We can go into why your team member is negative in another column but you want something short and snappy right now. Did you know that 65% of our communication is spent either complaining about someone, or listening to someone complaining? It’s a really easy habit to get into so let’s start by breaking the habit.

Every time someone starts a sentence with yes but, or no, or great but, or however, or any other word or phrase that you think is negative, they have to put a pound in a box. At the end of each day count up the pounds and at the end of the week give the money to your company’s charity.

You’ll find that the amount will reduce each day as people realise what they’re saying, the mood in the team will improve, people will become more motivated and productive and the charity will benefit.

Make it voluntary of course, and a bit of fun so people don’t feel threatened by it. Ask your team what words should be included in the list. Your “problem” team member may not participate to start with, but even if s/he doesn’t the negative comments will decline as they start to pick up on the positivity generated through the exercise.


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company. Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach. If you have a problem then contact her at

Visit the website on or click on the external link above right.

Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.