Negativity takes a toll on many aspects of the workplace. It affects everything from engagement to productivity, and even affects employee retention. No one likes to work in a toxic work environment, period. Combating negativity is not an insurmountable challenge; you just have to go about it in a strategic manner. The days of gathering around the water cooler have moved online, adding another challenge as people can hide behind screens and think less about the impact of their words and actions.
Workplace negativity disrupts productivity. It creates a place where employees dread coming to work, and employees who harbour negative attitudes about work can be toxic workers with performance issues. Employees who continually express negative opinions about the company and their co-workers may need strict counselling to modify their behaviour and attitudes. Attention to employee dissatisfaction is a sure way to overcome negativity in the workplace, however. Giving employees the opportunity to express their feelings about the workplace and helping them resolve issues that cause negativity are effective management methods.
How is it that just one discordant colleague, a single voice of negativity in a business unit or project team that is upbeat and enthusiastic, can cast such a long shadow on group morale? How does one bad apple always seem to spoil the whole bunch?
The power of bad also explains why it is so hard to sustain innovation over the long term, even when things are going well. It turns out that the impact on morale of even a small setback — a project that goes over budget, a product that does not deliver particularly well — can overwhelm all the successes that surround it. In order to overcome a setback, it usually needs 4 good things to happen.
Researchers have documented the positive impact of “social support” — friends, colleagues, neighbours who pump you up and cheer you on. Researchers have also documented the negative impact of “social undermining” — people who gossip, carry grudges, and otherwise bring you down. Not surprisingly, “Social undermining was found to have a bigger impact than social support.” So leaders with great ideas and good intentions won’t stand a chance of succeeding unless they are going to remove the bad apples within their department or organisation.
No Criticism, but Education
Too often our reaction to seeing or experiencing a negative or unfavourable behaviour is to do one of two things – ignore it or complain about it. These are natural reactions, yet they’re decidedly counterproductive. To make an impact and enact change, you have to take action and educate people. Call out negative actions when you see them, but remember that criticism isn’t taking action. You need to educate people on how they transform negative behaviours in a positive way.
Many negative behaviours are unintentional and go unnoticed by the individual. Frequent interrupters often don’t realize how disruptive they are. People making insensitive comments might think they’re being funny. Let them know how their behaviour is resulting in a negative impact. Show them the direct consequences of their actions and help them change. In the same line, be aware of your own behaviours and model positive actions whenever possible.
Take a stand against negativity and make your voice heard. You can’t create change by staying silent. Have conversations that address any negative behaviors you witness. Question why we’re allowing those negative behaviors to happen in the first place. Just because a negative action has been allowed or people have looked the other way in the past doesn’t mean it has to be that way forever. Have the difficult conversations. Stand up for what you believe in and push for change.
Don’t Address the Problem On your own
If you observe negative behaviour, chances are you aren’t the only one witnessing it. Find others who are willing to speak up. One voice makes a ripple, a group of voices creates waves, and many voices produce a tsunami. Find as many people as you can – there’s strength in numbers. Use that power in numbers to drive change at a faster pace. The more people you can get to be on the lookout for negative behaviours, the quicker you’ll see the changes in the workplace.
Ultimately, the good news is that bad news doesn’t have to drag down your company or your team. But it does require all of us, as executives, entrepreneurs, and change agents, to infuse well-designed strategies with a healthy dose of psychology. In business, as in life, it’s hard to get to the good unless you overcome the power of bad.
There is a real value in providing companies with the tools to carry out regular organisational assessments and this is where Great People Inside comes to your aid. Our online platform offers the best solutions and tools for your company to thrive in every type of industry and any possible situation your organisation may find itself. In terms of lowering your employee turnover rates, we recommend our GR8 Full Spectrum assessment for hiring and 360° Survey for retention. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It requires deep knowledge of your own organisation’s culture and a keen understanding of the candidate’s personality, strengths, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you find employees who can flourish and reach the highest performance required to constantly bring your company forward.
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