If you’re a business leader, sooner or later you’ll have to deal with a disparaging employee.

Whether it’s a current team member or someone who recently left the organization, it’s bound to happen.

It doesn’t matter who you are or how you run your organization, it’s simply human nature and part of doing business.

You can be the nicest person in the world and someone will still find a bone to pick.

In some cases, disgruntled employees will make negative comments for seemingly no reason!

It’s an incredibly frustrating situation to be in as a leader. You work hard to build a great organization and take care of team members, and someone can easily share false or misrepresented information that paints you in a poor light.

It’s not fair, but that’s the reality of life.

The truth is we can’t control what others say, who they say it to or where they say it – but we can control how we respond.

So how can leaders best deal with naysayers on our team, or even those who have recently left the team?

Educate Your Existing Team About the Consequences

Whether you’ve had trouble with disparaging employees or not, the first thing you should do is educate your existing team about the potential consequences of what they say online.

Many people don’t realize that a single negative comment could easily lead to a libel or defamation lawsuit. Additionally, your team members should know that anything they say online could easily go public.

In today’s day and age, privacy is in short supply and all it takes is someone screenshotting a message to share it far and wide on social media.

The last point to emphasize is that once you’ve written or said something online, it could be out there forever. Every future employer could potentially find and read those comments.

Leaders need to make sure their team members are aware that while it’s their right to speak out online, it can also damage their career. An expletive-filled rant or false comments could easily harm future employment opportunities or force someone to change careers entirely.

Slow Down and Take a Deep Breath

Look, I’ve been there before. I’ve seen someone make overblown, negative, and downright false accusations about myself and my business online…and staying calm in that situation is easier said than done.

However, it’s crucial that we not let these comments get under our skin and say something that we ourselves regret!

If you find yourself getting frustrated or defensive, take a deep breath and just step away for a time before responding. The last thing you want to do is sink down to their level.

Make a Public Statement if Necessary…

In many cases, there’s no need to make a public statement about negative comments from an employee. But if the comments are spreading on social media, drawing attention from others or prompting people to ask for your response, it’s time to make a public statement.

If it’s more of an internal stir, you can make a statement for just your team members via private channels.

How you word the statement and what you say is a whole new can of worms that I won’t get into here. But the key here is to be respectful and level-headed without coming across as defensive.

If you’re not used to PR, it is probably best to get someone with more experience involved to draft a statement.

…But Have a Private Conversation as Well

If the comments are coming from an existing team member, it’s vital to have a private conversation with them. Whatever you do, don’t try to have a productive conversation where everyone can see and read your exchange.

Frustrated and angry as you may be, it’s crucial to walk into the conversation with the aim of understanding their perspective.

Punitive measures may be warranted, they may be entirely at fault, but if you see value in keeping them on the team, you owe it to them to understand why they felt the need to disparage you publicly.

While you may not have been happy with how they expressed themselves, they may very well have a valid point of criticism for your team, leadership, or company. It’s even possible that they are voicing a viewpoint held by other more reserved members of your team. The reality is that disagreement is often very productive if not always easy or comfortable.

Once you understand why they are frustrated, you can work toward possible solutions or figure out the best way to productively move forward.

The More Successful You Get, the More Naysayers You’ll Come Across

Getting flak on social media or other channels from team members is inevitable if you run a successful business. It can be incredibly frustrating to read mean-spirited comments or slander, but it’s part of life. The question is in how you respond to it!

If handled correctly, these comments can be opportunity to learn, grow, and even demonstrate your professionalism to others.

It’s easy to be a class-act when others are being kind. But it’s doubly impressive to take the high road when others are dragging our name through the mud.

If you’d like to learn more about how to handle these sticky situations, schedule some time to chat with me directly by clicking here.