Tips to Reduce Negativity in the Workplace

10 min. read

Negativity in the workplace can hurt your business and the individuals that work for you. Here are some tips to reduce negativity in the workplace.

Negativity can be found all over the workplace. There might be gossiping in the office, rumors circulating the breakroom, bad attitudes in meeting rooms, mean comments online, or abusive behavior occurring behind the scenes. Negativity can occur in the mindset, outlook, and talk of one team member, or in a crescendo of voices responding to a work-related decision or event. However it emerges, negativity in the workplace can be seriously damaging and even warp an organization’s outlook and harm their business.

Why is negativity harmful in the workplace?

Nothing affects employee morale like persistent workplace negativity. It can lead to distrust and resentment within a team which can affect performance and all types of communication. It can also cause a decrease in employee engagement and retention, and in the worst cases even liability issues if negative behavior devolves into harassment. Negativity in the workplace saps energy and distracts from productivity and efficiency, so it is important to be proactive in maintaining a culture of positivity.

Analyzing workplace negativity

Negativity causes heavy losses to organizations and deteriorates workplace relationships. Knowing what your employees are feeling unhappy about is the first step to minimizing workplace negativity.

Observation will help you to identify the source of workplace negativity. You should be mindful of employee interactions and perceptions. To identify a root cause, check in with your employees to see if they are experiencing:

  • A loss of confidence or control
  • Feeling unappreciated, unrecognized, or underpaid
  • Being misunderstood, unheard, overlooked in the workplace
  • Difficulty collaborating or resolving disagreements with peers
  • Negative results of rumors or gossip
  • A desire to work but lacking in support or resources
  • Burn out due to excessive work or unreasonable deadlines

Talking openly with employees will help you to understand the problems and the degree to which negativity is impacting your workplace. Try to identify exact employee groups who are experiencing the negativity and diagnose the nature of the issues that sparked their unhappiness.

You may discover that the organization made a decision that adversely affected a certain team and there are feelings of bitterness and resentment. Perhaps a new manager held a meeting and was perceived to threaten a staff member. Any number of factors could lead to workplace negativity, it’s crucial to discover the root cause of the problem and address it directly.

Create a positive company culture

Building a positive company culture at your workplace will not only prevent negativity, but can benefit employees by reducing stress, developing engagement, and increasing productivity.

A great place to work provides a positive environment, in turn, your employees’ commitment to the organization increases, and turnover is reduced. To create a positive culture you should recognize your employees and reward hard work and quality performances. You can provide a range of incentives to motivate your team members and promote a happy, healthy workplace. Treat everyone with respect and encourage all your employees, especially those in leadership roles, to do the same. You can also organize fun team-building activities that suit your workforce. Overall, if you promote open communication and positive collaboration you enable your employees to build strong, working relationships.

Lead by example

As an employer and a leader, you must model the behavior you want to see. Negativity is contagious and if you need to make changes in the workplace, it starts with being an example for others to follow. This could involve some serious reflection and admitting to bad habits but you need to be patient and consistent if you want to progress.

Leading by example includes showing your team how to communicate effectively and how to interact positively with others even at times of conflict. Treating others with fairness and equality will avoid feelings of jealousy and inferiority.

Promote open communication

It is important to give employees a voice within an organization. If employees feel heard and empowered to speak truthfully they will feel valued and develop a more optimistic outlook on the company and their growth within it.

To make sure you are encouraging open communication in the workplace, evaluate the current communication strategy and assess where changes need to be made. This might be putting an end to one-way communication, implementing an open-door policy, or revising policies that inhibit positive interactions.

Provide regular opportunities for your employees to contribute constructive feedback and show them that you are listening to their opinions and ideas to ensure that they feel positive about their work environment and workload.

Positive language is powerful

Using positive language in the workplace does not mean mollycoddling your employees. You can express positivity by encouraging team members to share their success stories, acknowledging company achievements – individually and as a whole - and applauding employee accomplishments.

Starting and supporting positive conversations can work to replace negative gossip in the workplace, improving morale and reducing turnover. Being actively engaged also promotes a healthy work environment and improves leadership skills.

Treat all employees equally

Favoritism can be a significant factor of negativity in the workplace. In a study of 303 U.S. executives, it was found that more than half (56 percent) admitted to having a favorite candidate when making internal promotion decisions, and 96 percent of them would promote their favorites rather than considering the candidates. This can cause a loss of motivation and fuel feelings of resentment in your employees. As a result, employee loyalty lessens, and a negative attitude towards the organization develops.

Analyze how you communicate with your employees and how often you interact with each member of your team. Implement procedures to ensure that the mode of evaluation is the same for all employees and conduct regular meetings to allow for equal opportunity to speak out. Avoid spending too much time with a particular employee and introduce processes that enable employees to report bias confidentially and without fear of repercussions. Aim for higher levels of transparency and provide honest reasons behind decisions that involve employees.

Reducing negativity in the workplace – a conclusion

Whatever the cause of negativity in the workplace, once it has surfaced, you must address the issues. Ignoring negativity will hurt both the business and the individuals that work for it, it will periodically bubble up and overflow to inflict fresh damage.

Taking the time to inspire and maintain a positive culture keeps people focused instead of disengaged and uninspired. Providing rewards and recognition will see an increase in morale and productivity. Negativity is harmful to the workplace but it can be eradicated through positive, open communication and individual appreciation, which benefits everyone in the process.