I'm going to offer a different take on what has been said so far, stemming from 15 years working as a structural engineer, project management experience, and now having my own firm. It's safe to say I've been involved in conflict on all sides of this discussion.If you are a manager:
If you are a manager of the person with negative emotions, although I can understand the sentiment behind "sending the person home", it must be recognized for what it is: a conflict-avoidance tactic that will likely make the problem worse. If you are a manager, conflict resolution is part of your job, and creating a positive environment for your team is also part of your job.
If you send that person home, the message you are sending to the rest of your team is "I don't know how to deal with this and conflict makes me uncomfortable, so make sure you hide all negative emotions and conflict from me and allow your true feelings to fester into resentment or worse." You have just created an environment where people do not feel safe to share their feelings, which means your team can't build the trust necessary to have a successful project. See my "for all" paragraph to see what to do/say instead.
You might be thinking, "but I don't have time to deal with conflict." If you don't have time for this, to be blunt you have no business being a manager. As a manager, your primary responsibility is empowering your team, and that is not possible if the team does not trust each other, and you, to resolve conflict in a healthy way.If you are dealing with negative emotions from a superior or colleague:
The important thing to remember is that the negative emotion is their own issue to deal with, not yours. Don't take that negative emotion personally, there is very likely something going on there that is causing it that has absolutely nothing to do with you. How do you know that this person didn't just have a death in the family that they have not shared? You don't, so it behooves you to treat them with empathy as opposed to judgment. I've had success here redirecting the conversation in the moment by calmly saying: "Thank you for sharing how you really feel about this, I can see this is really frustrating for you . [Then state your understanding of how they feel and why, using their own words.] Can you share some ideas on how we can find a solution that is a win-win for all of us ?" From a scientific standpoint, when you are being "emotional", the logical part of your brain does not function. Asking a question like that to cause the logical part to kick by can potentially instantly defuse the situation.For all:
Most of the time, especially if this person normally does not normally share negative emotions, there is an underlying reason behind it. Pull that person aside and say "It seems like you are really frustrated or upset with what is going on, tell me about how you are feeling, and what I can do to help." And then, listen. Listen first to completely understand the problem and where it is coming from, and then ask that person what THEY think they can do to resolve the situation in a win-win manner for all involved. DO NOT offer advice until you've listened. As engineers, we are so often tempted to immediately solve the problem instead of staying curious about it until we fully understand. Don't do that. Conflict is much much harder to resolve when team members don't trust each other and feel no one is listening to them.Exception to all the above:
The exception to the above is if this is a toxic team member who routinely drags down morale. If I was managing such a person, I would first talk to this person about it (and document it), and work with them to figure out why it is happening and how we can improve the situation. If it doesn't improve, they'd get a second meeting and (also documented) warning that if they did not improve we'd need to let them go. Understand that you aren't doing your team, or that individual, any favors by not proactively addressing negativity and toxicity. On a related note, if you're being managed by a serially negative person, I'd find a new job or manager ASAP. You're not going to be able to change them, and they'll drag your entire career down if you stay too long because you'll start to adopt that negative mindset yourself.
Stephanie Slocum P.E.,M.ASCE
Engineers Rising LLCwww.engineersrising.com
Sent: 06-24-2019 09:19
From: David Urena
Subject: Negative Emotions on Your Project Team
An important underlying quality of working on a project team is the sense of morale, whether it is good or bad and how strong that sense is. It's generally believed that having a positive morale creates higher productivity within the group and leads to wholesome working relationships rooted in respect for one's self and one another. Often times negative emotions arise within a team (from either a superior, inferior, or colleague). The degree to which these negative emotions continue to fester is largely dependent on how they are managed by the individuals who have to work with the negative team member.
How does one effectively manage negative emotions from a member of a project team?
Dave Ureña, P.E.
3104 N. Armenia Ave
Tampa, FL 33607