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How to Keep Negativity from Infecting Your Workplace

April 27, 2015

By: Crystal Spraggins

Has your workplace become contaminated with negative energy, negative people, and negative behavior?

If so, you’ve got a big problem on your hands that needs attention.

A culture of negativity will affect work relationships; your employees’ attitudes toward leadership, their coworkers, and your customers; and ultimately productivity. A negative culture also leads to higher levels of involuntary turnover from your best performers, even as your lowest performers—who aren’t hindered by ambition and the need to positively impact the organization—hunker down for the long haul.

But perhaps worst of all, a negative culture will drive out your healthiest performers, who are all too happy to leave behind a workplace characterized by, backstabbing, distrust, and fear.

Like I said—problem.

On the other hand, maybe your workplace isn’t characterized by negativity, and you’d like to keep it that way.

Regardless, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out how.

What Causes a Culture of Negativity? 

Negativity contamination doesn’t occur by happenstance. Instead, a toxic brew of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, apathy, cowardice, helplessness, and fear creates the messy problem.

Positive reinforcement. Employees who exhibit bad behaviors are consistently rewarded with promotions, public kudos, and plum assignments.

Negative reinforcement. Employees who complain about the bad behavior are shunned, labeled as “troublemakers,” ignored, demoted, or driven out of the organization.

Apathy. Those in authority fail to give a hoot, instead preferring to remain “neutral.” (As though that were possible.)

Cowardice. Those in authority fail to act for fear of the potential negative personal consequences.

Helplessness. Those troubled by the bad behavior and with the heart to intervene have no authority to challenge it.

Fear. Those troubled by the bad behavior remain silent for fear of losing favor or even their livelihood.

Nipping Negativity in the Bud

The best way to nip negativity in the bud is to mindfully manage your company culture.

Mindful management is an active process and requires forethought, commitment, and determination. Mindful management is strategic.

If you don’t want negativity taking over your workplace, negative behavior must be addressed at every opportunity.

Reward good behavior consistent with the stated values of your organization. Ding bad behavior inconsistent with your stated values. Encourage honesty and openness by welcoming tough questions and criticisms from all levels of staff. Hold bullies accountable.

Don’t hesitate to make changes when changes are needed. For example, if someone is a good technician but a lousy manager of people, remove her people responsibilities. Whenever necessary, don’t be afraid to send the incorrigibles packing.

Finally, don’t entertain gossip. I’ve encountered many a leader who dealt in gossip and favored company snitches who regularly gifted the leader with pinches of dirt here and there. Such leaders may believe these transactions keep them in the know, but most of this “knowledge” is of little value, especially considering its true cost. Further, healthy organizations don’t encourage gossip and favoritism. Healthy organizations encourage information exchange through honest dialogue.

Banishing Negativity for Good

If your company is gripped in the jowls of negativity and is looking for release, senior leadership must first look in the mirror.

To repeat, negative cultures don’t occur by accident. For real change, senior leadership has to get in front of the problem while making it clear what the company stands for and how those beliefs will be enforced in the future.

Of course, talk is merely talk until the standard is challenged. At that point, leadership has the chance to gain trust and credibility by doing the hard but right thing … or not.

Register for Omnia’s FREE upcoming webinar, How to Keep Negativity from Infecting Your Workplace TODAY to learn more!




Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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