Negativity in the Workplace Part 1: Turning Bad Attitudes into Growth Opportunities

Proforma Blog Negativity

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No one is immune to a bad day – in fact, a Pew Research Poll from last year indicated that around 8% of North Americans suggested that they were typically having a bad day more often than not. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a bad day – the problem comes in when we let the bad day affect our mood negatively both at home with our loved ones and/or in the workplace (with people we oftentimes spend more time with than our own families each week).

Negativity can be expressed verbally (whining, yelling, sarcasm or mumbling) or visually (frowning, avoiding eye contact, eye-rolling or making negative gestures). The biggest problem about people expressing negative attitudes is that they very likely have no idea that they’re coming across as being negative to others. So then – if you manage a group of individuals, what do you do to address the negativity?

If the behavior is pervasive and consistent enough – it is strongly encouraged that management addresses the issue with the negativist by following the three confrontation steps:

1.    Specifically identify negative behaviors and how they affect the workplace around them.
Remember to give concrete examples – if there is no impact on business, there is oftentimes no problem worth addressing.

2.    Wait for said person to respond.
In this manner they can own up to their actions and explain the reasoning behind their behavior which may allow you to identify legitimate concerns about your business that you were unaware of.

3.    Identify and discuss alternative, more positive ways to behave.
Management is encouraged to allow the person to create an action plan – if they’re unable to do so, you will need to step in and create a plan. Regardless of who creates the plan, the individual must be held accountable for sticking to the plan in the name of curbing their negativity.

Remember – negativity in the work place will happen with the typical stresses associated with the job, but remaining proactive and realistic about this fact will help ensure better communication among your team and, in turn, a higher level of satisfaction among all. Remember to use your common sense and that your team members are as prone to bad days as anyone else. If treated rationally and respectfully, you’ll find that you’re retaining more of your key members than you are losing them.

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