How to avoid negativity at the workplace
Workplace negativity usually starts with a small group of employees and then soon spreads like wildfire, bringing down an entire department, tragically affecting employee morale and destroying productivity. Am I painting a grim picture? Well, to an HR manager, workplace negativity must be a serious issue to deal with because it creates unnecessary disruption in an otherwise professional environment.
HR managers have to resume control and diffuse the negative impact of unproductive behavior because a positive environment boosts morale thus reducing attrition, improving performance and building employee loyalty. What HR managers don't realize is that the best way to avoid or dissipate workplace negativity is free and quite obvious! Decision and quick action is the key.
Signs of Workplace Negativity
Gossip: Gossip takes place when employees are not willing to discuss problems with their managers who could possibly end rumors.
Complaints: Growing complaints may not be signs of legitimate problems but of general frustration and low morale.
Conflict: This happens due to a breakdown of open communication systems resulting in employees asserting their own authority and a lack of consensus and cooperation.
Low Efficiency: In a negative workplace, employees often become indifferent, inefficient and begin to contribute less. This adversely affects the productivity and business performance of the whole organization.
Combating negative attitudes before they spread will help you avoid sticky situations and put an end to problem performers and unacceptable behavior. Dealing with negativity requires open communication, good listening skills, and the ability to focus on solutions rather than the problem. Here’s how you can turn the negative into positive:
Check Assumptions: Communication breakdowns are common everywhere and ugly situations arise usually when people jump to conclusions. Instruct managers to check assumptions before they take any action by asking questions like: “What has happened that makes you think ?” or “What makes you say ?”
Think Different: If approached with an escalation that a team has not been able to resolve, brainstorm a number of possible solutions that would best serve the needs of everyone involved.
Communication: Encourage and practice open communication, especially respectful disagreement. Encourage managers to share information, feedback and future plans with their teams.
Seek Opinion: Ask for input/opinion on changes, procedures, or plans that affect employees. And don’t forget the shy/introvert employees by asking direct questions.
Regular feedback: Encourage team leads/managers to share negative and positive feedback on a regular basis. They must remember not to insult or demean employees, but to share feedback with the objective of improving performance.
Deal with disruptive employees first: Instead of dealing with negativity in the whole team, begin with seeking out the employee(s) feeding the negativity. Start by addressing concerns but don’t hesitate from taking strong action if required.
Don’t Discipline Publicly: Preach and practice discreet action. The aim is to remove or mend negative influencers, and not to vent personal vendetta. Never humiliate, or bad mouth or demean employees, and check managers/heads who might be doing so.
Reward: Build a system of using small rewards like allowing an employee to come late or leave early, or small gift certificates, to recognize employee effort.
In summation, communication is the key to avoiding workplace negativity or unproductive behavior often associated with disengaged employees. Open and consistent communication helps build employee commitment, increases morale and productivity and creates an overall positive environment.
Quick Tips for Dealing with Workplace Negativity
- Stop rumors and office gossip
- Create a motivating and fun environment
- Recognize early signs of serious problems
- Control crises by nipping it in the bud
- Communicate openly and often
- Don’t accuse or defend unfairly
- Differentiate between one-time and chronic negative behavior
- Counsel employees before taking action
- Stay positive and in control