Recognizing and Combating Negativity in the Workplace

A Scripted Freelance Writer Writing Sample

Employee morale can be affected by dozens of factors, but many of them boil down to workplace environment. And a big component of the workplace environment is interaction with other employees. If you've got an employee who is difficult to work with in some capacity, that's got potential to frustrate the whole team and bring morale and productivity down—obviously a situation anyone would want to avoid!

One form of difficult employee is someone who is always negative. Anyone who has been around a negative person can tell you: that attitude can be contagious. Before long, negativity from even just one individual can bring down the mood of the entire team.

Let's take a look at some of the various ways negativity can manifest among employees; watching for these behaviors can allow the HR team to quickly take action to minimize or eliminate them.

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 critiques 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.

These are some of the most common examples of workplace negativity. Low employee morale and engagement lower productivity levels and can create unnecessary distractions that prevent employees from performing at their best. They can even lead to increased turnover. It's best to combat negativity before it becomes a deeper problem and infects workplace culture to the point that it hurts the whole team and the bottom line.

What has been your experience combating workplace negativity before it gets out of control? Have you encountered employees with traits on this list?

*This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.

Bridget M
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Bridget Miller is a writer and editor with a business background. She has a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She worked in the corporate world for many years before transitioning to writing, and has experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.
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