Pervasive negativity is a common problem in many workplaces — and one of the most damaging things that can happen to an office. Negativity can create toxic workplaces that hamper teamwork, drive higher turnover rates, and drain the passion out of once-productive employees.
If you want to ensure that your workforce is productive, engaged, and performing to the best of its ability, you’re going to need some strategies to fight negativity if — or when — it rears its head. To that end, here are five ways to handle negativity in the workplace.
1. Find the Root Causes
It may be easy to assume that the negativity is caused by one certain person who is just a “problem employee,” you should never jump to conclusions. For one, you could be lose strong talent to your competitors by treating employees as hostile purveyors of negativity.
Before pointing the finger at any employees, try to understand the root causes that may be responsible for creating and perpetuating the negativity. An employee may be exhibiting negative behaviors for completely legitimate reasons – e.g., they may be suffering from mental illness, or they may be dealing with trauma at home, such as a gravely ill spouse or child. Employees in these situations should be helped instead of punished.
Moreover, negativity in the office could be the result of poor leadership or company policies. If that’s the case, blaming employees won’t solve the problem, and the negativity will simply continue.
2. Be Preemptive
When it comes to hiring, part of your job is choosing applicants who are unlikely to turn into problem employees later on down the line. For that reason, it’s best to look for the warning signs of negativity during the interview stage.
One strategy that works for uncovering negative people is asking applicants what they think about their previous employers. If the employee offers critical feedback, it should be constructive criticism. If the feedback is overly harsh, you are likely dealing with someone that could develop into a source of workplace negativity.
3. Calmly Confront Negative Behaviors
When a supervisor or other authority figure in a business needs to address negative behavior, it can be confusing to figure out the best way to do so. Being too confrontational can simply escalate tensions, but beating around the bush may reinforce the negative behaviors rather than address them.
Instead, it is best to address the specific issue with the employee in a one-on-one setting. Calmly and carefully explain why the negative behavior is wrong, and keep things as relaxed as possible, in order to deescalate tensions.
4. Contain the Problem
Negativity is particularly insidious because it easily spreads from employee to employee. Left unchecked, workplace negativity can consume the entire office.
To fight negativity, you need to keep it contained. Address negativity whenever it appears – never ignore it in the hopes that it will “just go away.”
It’s also a good idea to have an open-door policy with your employees. Let them know that they are free to speak with you anytime they have an issue they’d like to address. If employees feel like they have an outlet for their problems — and if you are really listening to their concerns – there is a good chance that you’ll be able to head off the feelings of resentment and bitterness that lead to negativity before they even arise.
5. Fight Negativity with Positivity
Overall, the most effective weapon against negativity is positivity. Relationships in the office should be built on enthusiasm and positive attitudes.
Try to ingrain positivity into every level of the company so that it becomes a critical part of the organizational culture in total. If employees have positive outlooks, they are more likely to trust each other — and trust results in effective team building and strong business results. Negativity, on the other hand, can do just the opposite. Try to create trust based on positivity between employees and all levels of management.