21st December 2017
Whether it’s one disruptive voice amongst the masses, or a group of disengaged employees who are unsettling the wider team, negativity in the workplace can cause serious issues if it’s not addressed. Letting any negativity fester will only mean that it’ll eventually spread amongst your workforce, causes problems with morale and productivity that could ultimately be disastrous.
Examples of negativity in the workplace
There are many forms of negativity within the workplace that you need to look out for. It can be common, for instance, for employees to simply not get on with each other. Most of the time, people will work professionally alongside a colleague, but sometimes a more brash or less mature employee will make their dislike of another public. This can quickly develop into either arguments or, if one employee is less confident, bullying. Either should be a major concern.
Potentially worse is where you have a group of upset employees. This may be a close-knit team that loses morale when one of their number is singled out for criticism, or treated in any way they deem unfair. Or it could be that a process or a business decision has made the whole group feel hard done by. Depending on the size of this group, and their popularity within the office, you may have a serious issue with negativity in these situations.
Or another example could simply be selfish employees who generate negativity through either being lazy, or by trying to guarantee their own success at the expense of others. If someone’s viewed as not pulling their weight, or they’re acting deceitful to try and make themselves look better, it can make the wider team very disgruntled.
One of the easiest ways to overcome negativity is to improve communication. Start with how you communicate with the team and set a good example. It’s important that you’re professional and courteous, but also honest.
Keep the team updated with the business. You don’t need to reveal sensitive information, but just making sure your team are in the loop on progress and any changes will have a big impact. It stops gossip, and encourages a positive and open atmosphere where everyone feels included and valued.
If the problem with negativity is between two employees, get them communicating in the right environment. This is likely to be a formal meeting, with an impartial adjudicator. Make both parties aware that the meeting is happening, as you don’t want to surprise them by dragging them into a potentially hostile situation. Remember you don’t need to make them friends, as long as they can work together professionally without impacting their work, or that of their colleagues.
Building a team
If there’s negativity between employees or teams, or you’re worried about cliques forming within your workplace, it’s worth looking at how your teams are structured. It may be that you need to simply redefine your internal structure, to get the right people onto the right teams with the right managers to help develop their attitudes.
If it’s more about creating team spirit, then you may wish to consider teambuilding activities. These can sometimes be a little cliched and, if handled incorrectly, make things worse if your employees don’t engage with the planned activities.
Instead, make sure you play to the personalities of your team to find something that they’ll learn from, but also enjoy. If it’s an experience that challenges them but that they also find a bit of fun, then you’ll see them forming much closer bonds a lot quicker.
Providing adequate motivation
When understanding why employees begin to feel negative, you may find it’s down to a lack of motivation. People want to feel valued and rewarded, and if you’ve not established a clear path to that recognition then employees can begin to feel like they won’t ever achieve success.
This doesn’t always have to be a financial reward. Yes, employees will be looking to be paid well and will hope for salary increases during their time working for you. But for most workers there are different motivations. It may be that they just want to see the fruits of their labour, and how their work drives the overall success of the business. Or it could be that they wish to develop more personally.
Make it clear what you’re willing and able to offer your employees in exchange for their hard work. If you can get them bought into your vision, they’ll be a lot more positive as they strive to see their own success.
Processes to prevent negativity
There are some simple processes that you can put in place to help identify and prevent negativity before it becomes a large issue. Make sure you’re speaking to your employees regularly and keeping communication channels open. You don’t need to speak to each employee individually, but ensure they have regular catch ups with their line managers, and offer appraisals where they can be evaluated but also raise any concerns they may have.
If an employee is leaving your business, set up an exit interview. These are extremely valuable for identifying any issues which could be causing negativity within your workplace, as people are more likely to be honest and reveal problems when they’re on their way out of a business. Make this as relaxed as possible to encourage honesty from the outgoing employee.
Finally, make sure you’ve got a robust policy for managing employees out of the business if they’re being unnecessarily and consistently negative and disruptive. You can’t sack an employee based on their personality, but if you collect enough evidence of their behaviours you can begin following your disciplinary procedures to issue warnings that can eventually, if required, get them out of your team.
Don’t dismiss negativity within your workplace as an issue with personalities straight away. Assume there is a problem and use it as an opportunity to make changes and show your workforce that you’re receptive to feedback. But sometimes an employee will simply be difficult and impossible to manage, so make sure you’re prepared to deal with these situations too.