Help! A negative mood in my team: How do I discuss this?


By Kirsten van Enk | June 2, 2020

As manager (of a team) you have probably come across this question: “How do I discuss a negative mood in my team?” Perhaps avoiding the difficult conversation with your employees seems the easiest option … Nothing could be further from the truth!

It is precisely by entering into a conversation that you promote the connection, growth and confidence in your team, and this not only applies to negative moods. Positive emotions are just as valuable to appoint. Like negative emotions, positive emotions are contagious. By emphasizing the positive mood of employees, you stir up more positive emotions.

So, is there a positive atmosphere and do team members feel energetic? Then celebrate this together and be proud of it. Is there however a negative atmosphere in your team and are team members a bit low in their energy? Then it is – especially these times – of extra importance to (continue to) talk with your team members about how they feel and why. No worries, having the conversation doesn’t have to be difficult at all!

It all starts with asking one question:

What could we do together to give the mood in our team a positive boost in the coming period?

In this blog I will tell you how to have a positive and action-oriented conversation with your team about this question in 5 simple steps. The 5 steps are derived from the GROW model of John Whitmore (1992). As a manager or team leader, you adopt an active listening attitude. It is important to keep this in mind during the conversation. It can be difficult not to jump straight into an advisory role, but it is much more powerful to let your team learn and come up with solutions. After all, something that is put forward by your team will really last.

Let’s start!  

1. Formulate your goal

As a team you may be inclined to immediately search for a goal such as: achieving 80% happiness. This while the goal should not be to achieve 80% happiness, but rather to be able to speak openly and honestly about all emotions. So don’t focus too much on a certain score or percentage. Rather, try to reach an accepted stress level together. What has been normal for you in recent months, and has that energy generally felt positive? Then that is your own accepted value. With 2DAYSMOOD’s weekly 15-second online survey, you can easily map and monitor the percentage of happiness, stress or dissatisfaction in your team.

You can also determine the current and desired score of happiness or stress by, for example, giving a score of 1-10 together during a team meeting. Once you have determined your baseline and goal, you can check weekly if you deviate from this score. Do you deviate? Then the conversation is all the more important.

Tip: keep it positive!

The chances of success are increased if you formulate a positive goal (something you want to achieve) instead of a negative goal (something you want to avoid). The positive charge is important because it stimulates. Negativity only inhibits.

2. Become aware of what is going on

Find out where you are now. How does last week’s mood compare to the previous weeks’ mood? When there is a lot of stress or dissatisfaction, discuss what is going on exactly. What circumstances, events or feelings determine this negative mood in the team? What is it that drains your energy at the moment? And what gives you energy? Ask reflective questions, such as: “How?”, “What?”, “Where?”, “When?”, And “Why?” Give employees time, deliberately drop silences. This gives them the opportunity to think about the current situation better and to say something they have not thought of before.

Not sure what questions to ask? Then be inspired by the different types of conversation at the bottom of this blog!  

Tip: you don’t have to think in terms of solutions (yet)

First focus on the current situation. Why is there a negative mood in the team right now? Do you already use the realtime mood dashboard of 2DAYSMOOD? Then look at the anonymous answers to the open question together: “What is the reason for your mood today?” By discussing those results, or asking the reasons on the spot, you learn a lot about what positively or negatively contributes to the team atmosphere. Assure your employees that all answers are appreciated and that they can be honest in a safe team environment, without negative consequences.

3. Think of possible actions

Once you have mapped out what is going on exactly, you can start thinking about possible solutions. Think about everything that you could do together to positively influence the mood in the team. What does your team need from you, and what could your team do themselves, big or small, to boost their overall mood? Keep in mind that anything is possible at this stage. Hence, all ideas are welcome.

Tip: consider this phase as a brainstorming session

Think of this phase of the conversation as an open brainstorming session. Do not judge, but build on each other’s ideas. That way you make the ideas even better!

4. Create mutual understanding

Choose the most promising options from all possible solutions that you came up with to achieve a positive team mood. Which options do you like best? This may of course be several. At this stage of the conversation, listen sincerely to each other and try to understand each other. By hearing everyone’s ideas, you create mutual understanding within the team. There is always value in what the other person says. Try to be open to this. This way, you may discover new possibilities to give your team mood a positive boost.

Tip: create a joint top 3

Have each team member vote for (for example, 3) options he or she finds most likely to achieve the positive mood. Count the votes per option to reach a joint top 3.

5. Take action

Look at the chosen options together and convert them into concrete steps and actions. What will you do and when to boost the mood in your team? Try to start small. For example, what can you do today or this week that already contributes to a positive and energetic atmosphere in the team?

Tip: appoint a responsible person for each action

Make someone responsible for each action and make a note of the actions, or even better, make them visible continuously! (For example, in the action module in the 2DAYSMOOD dashboard). Also check out this visual E-book with 15 tips for more happiness at work while working from home.

Don’t forget to evaluate

It is very important that there is a follow-up to your conversation. Therefore, assess and evaluate the actions taken together over time. Did these actions contribute to a positive mood in the team? Are you on the right track? Through evaluating the last conversation, you might learn valuable lessons that you could take with you to the next one.   

A negative mood in the team is a topic that lends itself well to a team discussion. But perhaps there are also topics that you would rather discuss 1 to 1 with your employees, or perhaps employees would like to work on specific topics individually. Whatever the type of the conversation, the above steps are always there to structure the conversation, for yourself and with others.  

Do you already measure with 2DAYSMOOD? To make the above 5 steps even easier and more fun, 2DAYSMOOD has developed offline action cards that help to take your team from data to action! If you want to get started with the action cards right away, do not hesitate to contact us at info@2daysmood.nl.

Find the type of conversation that suits you

To create an open, safe and familiar environment where you and your employees can talk about and discuss difficult topics, it is important to do it in your own way. Difficult conversations with your team are only possible if you are familiar with the way you do it. ProRail and Vektis are two good examples of how you can make the process of conversation your own:

At ProRail contact moments mainly consist of real dialogues, in which employees can appoint what they need from their organization to be able to give the best of themselves. The following five questions are central:

  1. Am I doing the right things?
  2. Am I doing the things right?
  3. What is my strength?
  4. How can I continue to develop?
  5. Am I still in the right place?

At Vektis they have found yet another way to conduct a dialogue, by means of a self-designed pizza on the wall. Based on this visualized pizza, they have a conversation with their employees every two weeks. The pizza is divided into 5 pizza points:

  1. Tastes for more (What could be better?)
  2. Excellent (What is going well?)
  3. Past its date (What should we stop doing?)
  4. Other ingredients (What are your ideas?)
  5. Compliments to the chef (Who deserves a compliment?)


Via the mood measurement of 2DAYSMOOD we also offer tools to have a good conversation with your team. We have listed help questions for positive emotionsand help questions for negative emotions to get you started.  

In the meantime, keep looking for the type of conversation that suits you. Then you will see that that difficult conversation doesn’t have to be that difficult at all!

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