I don’t know about you, but its amazing to me how one bad attitude can affect an entire organization. Over the years, I have found that nothing affects employee morale more insidiously than persistent negativity in the workplace. It seems to just sap the energy out of your organization and diverts critical attention from work and performance. I mean let’s face it, not every member of an organization is going to be 100 percent happy all the time, that’s just not realistic. However, constant negativity will invade the workplace like wildfire, attacking and hindering entire departments, while leaving a wake of destruction along the way.
Obviously, the best way to combat workplace negativity is to keep it from occurring in the first place. Quick detection and diagnosis of potential problems before they spread is key to defusing harmful situations and stopping them in their tracks. Heeding early warning signals and identifying symptoms of negativity will not only assist you in preventing morale-busting consequences but will also help in curing the problem.
Here are a few ways I’ve found to minimize negativity in the work environment:
Provide opportunities for people to make decisions about and control their own job. According to Gary Topchik, author of Managing Workplace Negativity, “negativity is often a result of loss of confidence, control or community” by the employee. Almost any decision that excludes the input of the person doing the work is perceived as negative.
Treat people with fairness and consistency. Workplace policies and procedures should be publicized and applied consistently to all employees.
Build relationships based on trust. Taking action to build trust will increase comfort levels and strengthen relationships. Use positive attitudes and enthusiasm to build relationships.
Disagree agreeably. Keep the lines of communication open by trying to see things from a different perspective. The key question that we all face is, “How do we disagree agreeably and still have our ideas heard?
Make opportunities available for employees to express their opinions about workplace policies and procedures.
Win people to your way of thinking. When handled correctly, disagreements and debates are opportunities for positive change. When disagreements arise, show respect for the opinions of others, never tell someone they are wrong, and try to see things from the other point of view.
Don’t create “rules” for all employees, when just a few people are violating the norms. Treat people as adults, they will usually live up to your expectations, and their own expectations.
Last but not least, provide appropriate rewards and recognition so people feel their contribution is valued. The power if recognition is remarkable. It is one of the most powerful tools an organization can use to buoy staff morale.
Negative attitudes spread to the point where they eventually affect performance and decision making. That’s the bad news. The good news is that enthusiasm and positive attitudes spread just as quickly and affect performance just as much, but in the right direction. Just remember, that whatever the cause of workplace negativity, you must address the issues. Or like a seemingly dormant volcano, they will boil beneath the surface, and periodically bubble up and overflow to cause fresh damage.
A few excerpts from Dale Carnegie.com and Fred Pryor Seminars