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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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Negative co-workers?


I’m a new employee in a group home working there just under a year. I have a co-worker that comes into the workplace in a negative mood, complaining about the job, co-workers, and management. What are some ideas to approach her and resolve the negativity?


Hi Cory,

It is best that you be honest with her, stating it actually makes her uncomfortable hearing all of the negativity and that you really want to be able to give the position you are in a chance. I think approaching her directly prior going to management gives her the opportunity to change and being honest with her shows an honest character. Generally, that solves the problem, I mean she may just find someone else to complain too but she won't come to you anymore. I would, if you are confident to do so, encourage her to explore her concerns with management or someone in a director position, change can happen but you have to take the risk . Some management teams are open to feedback and some really are not but does not been you shy away from it. Remember to be compassionate in your message as that's really important in how someone will receive the message.

Lucy Fernandes

Like everyone else there are reasons for her behaviours and moods. I would start with working on a relationship with her. You cannot change or influence another person until they feel that you are with and for them. Get to know this person, find out who they are and what is important to them.....what their strengths are and then move to some other conversations that are important to you about how this person impacts you.

Rick Kelly

Hi there,

My name is Jennifer I am the new child and youth counsellor at BSC. My advice to you would be to approach your co-worker and ask her or him if they would like to talk, and explain to them in a gentle way that you have heard them reference the job staff and management in a way that wasn’t so positive and you’re wondering if they just need to vent and get it put or if there is something more going on for them. Explain to them they can usually access the EAP, and get some counselling or if they need to they can call the distress centre, or Connects through CCASA for emotional support through trauma. I like to tell people that emotions are contagious; in other words if you come into work in a happy mood your coworkers will be happy too if you come into work sad your coworkers will pick up on that and feel for you sad. The way negativity can spread through an office is like a virus and if they are truly unhappy with the position or the management then maybe the position is not the right one for them. Everyone deserves to go to work feeling excited and passionate about the work we do. Group home environments can be emotionally draining and if you don’t feel like you are on a good team and with supportive boss it can lead to burn out real quick. Usually people who are venting in a negative way are looking for validation and support and if they find out that others don’t feel the same negative way about the organization or management they will no longer bring it up. Just my thoughts on the subject, hope that helps, take good care,



My first response is that you cannot change anyone else, so don't waste your time trying. The personality you describe is (and always will be) present on probably 70% of staff teams at some stage or other. Having said that, my advice to you is to manage your relationship with the person so that you do not engage in the negativity. If you think the person is receptive to it, you may even be able to sensitively and respectfully challenge their negativity, but be very careful. If the person is very stressed, or burnt out, they may turn their anger and frustration onto you, and you will become the focus of their bitching and backbiting (which usually go hand in hand with the behavior you describe). Remember that challenging a behavior doesn't have to be confrontational. You can challenge in a supportive way by asking your colleague if s/he is OK and suggesting that s/he seems (from your experience) to be quite unhappy at work. See where that takes you!!!

You could also talk to your manager about the culture of the unit. Aim to work toward developing a culture of open, supportive feedback between colleagues. Remember that feedback is not just an opportunity to 'have a go' at each other by pointing out each other’s flaws. It is also about acknowledging the things you do well to each other. Be patient, changing the culture of a unit is very difficult and requires a strong manager and 100% commitment from 100% of the team.

Good luck with it,
John Byrne


Working in a group home is a thankless job. Try reminding the person of the passion that drove them to do this work. We all do this work because it's in our hearts.

Best of luck
Shari Rougeau

I would be blunt:
Are you aware you are negative every time you come in? Do you want to be here or is it something else?
Some just don’t realize they are in a slump.

Care and compactions will only work if you know the problem. They might open up. They might not but for sure they will be aware of how they affect others.

Donna Wilson

Hi Cory,

Being the newbie on the team puts you in a precarious position as you may likely not be comfortable addressing this person's negativity head on. She/he may well be experiencing burnout as it often presents as negativity that if not contained can filter throughout the rest of the team creating a toxic environment. You have been provided with different suggestions and while I tend to favor the blunt, direct approach (this just being me though), what works for you? I caution assuming the compassionate approach and wanting to be the sounding board for this person, as this risks bringing you down, not in a position I imagine you want to be as the new staff. This work can be exciting, enriching, exhausting too, however all of which requires compassion and self care to be effective. I think that the best self care for you would be to address the issue with your supervisor who can and is responsible for ensuring a positive team environment.

Good luck and stay strong. When you learn to navigate through the team dynamics and other challenges of the work, this work rocks!!!

Donicka Budd

Hi Cory,

It is unfortunately quite common that many people tend to complain about their jobs, their colleagues and management. I do agree with Lucy that you need to be very open with the colleague in question about the importance of addressing with management/supervisor whatever concerns him/her as the management might not be aware of what bothers her. It could be important that you build a rapport with this person. Get to know them better – somehow they might openly disclose to you other things they never spoke of before. Who knows, you might be the one to assist this person and there might be no need to bring this to the attention of management. As much as young people have unmet needs, adults too have needs that need to be fulfilled. Just a thought.

Vincent Hlabangana
South Africa

Hi Cory,

Some ideas to approach her alleged negativity are to ask the leader of the program/agency if, being as you describe her to be, are these characteristics permissible. You'll want to know this for your own benefit to decide if you want to stay with an organization/agency/program/home. If leadership says yes...RUN! If they say no, say "coulda fooled me!"

Ask the leadership what is their developmental focus on youth care worker development and their beliefs around the importance of regular supervision. If leadership gives you a response that indicates their strong beliefs on the importance say, "coulda fooled me!"

Hopefully, at that point the leadership is interested in understanding their culture differently than they are currently and will set off in search of supporting the culture they espouse.

Is a struggling employee to be seen with contempt or being a problem? Can a struggling employee be likened to a struggling young person? The assumption of her behaviour being negative and derogatory is a perception you choose. That's a great lesson. How you respond, is another great lesson. So, since she has given you two fabulous lessons already you may want to go thank her for her way of being in this world – it gives you a chance to offer generosity and help. Now, what you do with your perceptions/observations of others will define you as a healer. "The way you see people, is the way you treat people and the way you treat them is the way they become" ...Goethe

I know when I am negative and grouchy I have alerted others to hold me in check and tell me that I am being incongruent with my goals. My teammates will actually say, "Ernie, you look moody & hostile"...true! There is a lot going on in this industry, it can easily have you have a bad day, week...even a month. If it goes on past that I have likely been overwhelmed and lost my way. Having clear structures(team-mates, supervisor, mentor, policy etc) surrounding you may help you find your path back....or not.

Ernie Hilton
Nova Scotia

Hi Cory

Dealing with that kind of attitude or behaviour is much better resolved the way Vincent puts it, building a rapport. However not all people cooperate because they hate facing their devils. In many aspects I have been involved in assisting people with the same character. Using a circle of courage assists such people to find who they are. It is difficult to help someone who does not know him/herself. The excercise itself is not easy but worth doing because it drains the negativity in one's inner man. A person can start dealing with himself not others .I also like Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. You cannot climb a broken ladder. If basic needs are not met you will stumble and fall around the first step and never be able to reach the self-actualization stage.

Try this also and see how far can you go with this person. Please let me know anytime you are ready if this worked for you or not.

Sindiswa Somdaka

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