How to handle workplace negativity

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No matter how you swing it, every workplace is going to have its ups and downs. Sure, you can use performance management techniques to try and keep everyone motivated but as effective as these are, negativity can and does creep its way in. When it does, it can have a detrimental impact on the workplace. Positive and well-motivated employees are beneficial to a company but negativity can cloud judgement, darken moods and lower productivity.
As HR professionals, it’s your job to manage the situation before it goes from bad to worse. And as the staff’s first point of contact in times of trouble, you need to be able to get handle on things before they spiral out of control. Sound scary? Well in a way it is. So let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? How do you deal with workplace negativity?
Investigate and Clarify
Your first step is to do your detective work. Or your due diligence if you prefer to be less colloquial. This involves looking into the heart of the matter and finding out where the negativity is coming from. Is it stemming from an unhappy employee? Is an employee having difficulties on the home front that are affecting their mood and performance? Or is it just a simple misunderstanding? “Quite often an employee can feel slighted by something a supervisor has said in good faith, but it just comes out the wrong way” says Tamara Reid, Human Resources Coordinator at Ashton College. “Usually if you sit down with them and ask them to explain what was said you can get the bottom of it simply by getting an explanation.”
Turn a Negative Into a Positive
As the old adage goes, “Turn that frown upside down.” Negative thoughts, even temporary ones, can lead to pessimism. And pessimism tends to snowball into a toxic workplace. The best way to overcome this is to look at the situation in a more positive light. Employees may not easily recognize the impact that their negativity has on those around them and by bringing it to their attention in a constructive manner, you enable them to communicate in a more positive manner. Positive actions lead to positive results and this benefits everyone in a company.
Keep It Formal
Sometimes confrontation just isn’t the best way to deal with negativity. In fact it can often run the risk of making things worse. Formal, public communication goes a long way in dealing with hurt feelings and wounded pride. “Using newsletters or memorandums and distributing them throughout the workplace is a great way to spread a message evenly to everyone,” says Reid. “It also limits the likelihood of rumours being spread about.” By making it known how important it is that everyone be motivated and professional you maintain the health of the company.
Open Your Door
Rumours, in all their forms, are dangerous in the workplace. They breed contempt, misinformation, and inevitably lead to hurt feelings. That’s why having an open door policy in the workplace is so beneficial. Closed doors lead to secrets and quiet sniggers and miscommunication. But by maintaining an open door policy, especially to the HR department, employees know that they have a place they can go to give feedback and voice concerns.
Implement Rewards for Positivity
Positive encouragement goes a long way. People often learned this as children, when a gold star on a homework assignment was something worth taking home and showing off. Adults in the workplace today don’t necessarily need a gold star they do need a bit of encouragement every now and then. Coaching can happen at all levels and in many different ways. Sometimes a simple “great work on that report you submitted on Friday, the boss loved it!” does more good than a bonus cheque.
Ashton College is accredited post-secondary institution offering flexible education options for working professionals including a Diploma in Human Resources Management and a variety of professional development seminars.
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