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Workplace Environment: Dealing with Negativity in the Workplace

Nowadays, negativity is an increasing problem in the workplace environment. If employees are constantly complaining or being negative it can sap the energy and morale of everyone they come into contact with.

Workplace conflicts can be one of the greatest causes of employee stress. When a negative workplace is being allowed to persist, it can begin to affect everyone in the company. It affects everything from engagement to productivity, and even impacts employee retention.

Take a look at some of the various ways negativity can manifest among employees. Common forms of workplace negativity:

  • Bullying. Office bullying often comes out as an individual trying to exert control over someone else or forcing others to do things their way or put their projects first. Sometimes the one doing the bullying has no idea of how they’re perceived.
  • Continual Critiques. While constructive criticism and feedback are usually welcome, they can easily spur into negative territory if an individual is giving continual criticism of others—especially if their opinion was not asked for or if this person is unwilling to own up to their own problems.
  • Gossip and Rumors. When someone spreads gossip and rumors, this can lead to a feeling of mistrust among employees. It is distracting and can lead to misunderstandings and bigger problems. Employees may begin to distrust their colleagues without reason. And the time spent by management handling these misunderstandings can also be frustrating.
  • Never good enough. Sometimes the negativity may be warranted – such as when employees are frustrated with a genuine issue—but this can get out of hand. Here are some examples of how this might manifest in the workplace:
    • When a person or team seems to continually complain and debate about the problems going on around them or about changes in the organization, it makes others not want to work with that person—even if their complaints are warranted.
    • This can also take the form of a continual pessimist—someone who seems to only see the negative side of any issue. Being around someone with this perspective can be draining for everyone.
    • Requiring perfection is another potentially problematic trait. When an employee or manager insists everything must be perfect, it can be exhausting.
  • Not-as-they-seem Employees. To the bosses, this employee is continually happy and appears to be a productive member of the team, but to teammates this person is two-faced: they appear to be uncooperative or unwilling/unable to pull their weight. This can be especially tough to discover because the employee behaves so differently for different audiences, but it’s clear to see why their attitude will negatively impact their team.

Negative thinking can spread like wildfire across a positive workplace. It is contagious and if a change in attitude is the goal, it starts with being the example for others to follow. It’s insidious and difficult to understand and control. But, employers have the opportunity to keep employee negativity from gaining a foothold.

These eight tips will help you cut workplace negativity.

  1. Provide opportunities for people to make decisions about and control and/or influence their own job.
  2. Allow people to express their opinion about workplace policies and procedures. Changes to these can cause serious negative responses. Provide timely, proactive responses to questions and concerns.
  3. Treat people as adults with fairness and consistency.
  4. Treat your employees as if they are trustworthy and worthy of your respect—because they are. Employees have radar machines and they are scoping out their work environment.
  5. Do not create rules for all employees when a few people are violating the norms. You want to reduce the number of rules directing the behavior of adult people at work.
  6. Help people feel included—each person wants to have the same information as everyone else. Provide the context for decisions, and communicate effectively and constantly.
  7. Afford people the opportunity to grow and develop. Make your commitment to employee growth and development by creating mutually developed career path plans for every employee.
  8. Provide appropriate leadership and a strategic framework, including mission, vision, and goals. People make better decisions for your business when you empower them with the information they need to make decisions that tactically align with your general direction.

As an individual, you have the power to make a change. Preventing negativity can start with one single person taking action. Will you be that person? 

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