Negativity at work is a scourge that ultimately impacts your business's bottom line. That's why employers and HR should make every effort to identify and address workplace negativity before the damage spreads.

This article looks at what causes negativity in the workplace, signs to look out for, and ways to overcome negativity in the workplace.

What's Negativity In the Workplace?

Negativity in the workplace might not be tangible, but it's still important to define it. Generally, every workplace negativity definition is the opposite of a positive work culture. A positive work culture embodies beneficial values, such as open communication, transparency, teamwork, empowerment, flexibility, camaraderie, and a commitment to excellence.

Any attitudes, outlooks, behaviors, practices, traits, or systems that go against these positive values are a form of workplace negativity.

Examples of negativity in the workplace are when employees constantly complain about management or when management ignores employees' concerns. Overall, negativity is a bad vibe or pessimism that permeates the workplace and reduces employee morale and motivation.

Negativity At Work: What's the Cause and Effect?

Now that you have a better understanding of workplace negativity, it also helps to understand what causes negativity in the workplace. The leading causes of negativity at work include the following:

  • Excessive workload. Too much work leads to a poor work-life balance and burnout. Employees no longer enjoy coming into work, and it shows in every aspect of their work.
  • Lack of confidence in leadership. When workers don't have faith in their leaders, they stop participating in the organization's vision and mission.
  • Poor workplace relationships. When employees don't get along with other colleagues, this creates divisions in the workplace.
  • Lack of job or financial security. This contributes to an atmosphere of anxiety, fear, and frustration.
  • Poor employee experience. When employees feel unappreciated, unchallenged, unsupported, and underpaid, this leads to a poor employee experience.

So how exactly does workplace negativity affect your business? It can manifest in various ways and behaviors, including:

  • Reduced employee motivation, satisfaction, engagement, productivity, and retention
  • Numerous incidents of complaints and criticism
  • A general lack of enthusiasm
  • A culture of gossiping and animosity
  • Any other troubling behaviors, body language, and interactions that add to workplace toxicity

10 Ways to Eradicate Workplace Negativity

These tips will help you get rid of negativity at work.

Work On Being a Leader

As always, fostering positivity in the workplace starts with leading by example. Unfortunately, some leaders make the mistake of continuously complaining about what's happening, which only perpetuates the negativity cycle. As a leader, you must maintain a positive attitude even when surrounded by negativity at work.

Employees will sit up and take notice if you practice what you preach. In addition, to ensure that management is dealing with negativity at work in the right way, it also helps to understand how to improve the employee experience. A lot of negativity at work stems from a poor employee experience, and addressing this is a big step in the right direction.

Set Firm Boundaries

Workplace negativity is not something employers or employees should ever put up with. Once you notice any signs of negativity, you should address the problem directly. To begin with, every workplace should have a code of conduct that clearly outlines the type of behavior expected of leaders and employees.

This code of conduct should be distributed to every member of the organization. In addition, it should be used as a reference whenever anyone deviates from the standards of professional behavior.

If employees are made aware of the code of conduct right from the beginning (the hiring stage), this reduces the risk of negativity. Negative employees should be held accountable and let go if they refuse to change.

Open the Channels of Communication for Employees

It's difficult to understand what causes negativity at work without employee insight. The best way to gain employee insight is by making employees feel safe about opening up. At any given time, employees have issues or concerns they need to vocalize. If they're not allowed to do so, this fosters resentment and negativity.

Give employees a voice by letting them express their opinions on working conditions, benefits, job requirements, overtime hours, and other areas that matter to them. Then, be available and listen and take action to address the issues employees raise. Being proactive is the key to minimizing workplace negativity.

Talk to Negative Employees Behind Closed Doors

You should avoid confronting negative employees in front of their colleagues, which can escalate the situation. Instead of blaming and accusing negative employees, it's better to have a quiet word with them to get to the root of the problem. For example, sit down with the employee and ask if they are happy with their role on the team or if they feel overwhelmed.

This will provide you with deeper insights than you may have overlooked. Once you know why the employee is negative, you should develop a plan of improvement and schedule regular sit-downs to check on the employee's progress. The sooner you have a private chat with negative employees, the sooner you can nip negativity in the bud.

Criticize Less and Educate More

As mentioned, the trick is never to criticize, as this contributes to the existing negativity. Instead of criticizing, management should focus on providing positive reinforcement. When an employee does something right, you should acknowledge it. However, that doesn't mean constructive criticism isn't important in the workplace.

Constructive criticism helps improve employee behavior. In some instances, employees contribute to a toxic workplace culture, and they might not know the difference if they're not made aware. Go a step further by teaching employees how to positively transform negative and toxic behaviors.

Give Employees More Control

Giving employees more control implies that you trust them. This, in turn, enables employees to tackle their assigned roles more confidently. Otherwise, employees will have negative feelings if their input doesn't count when making decisions. This also happens when a supervisor micromanages and constantly scrutinizes employees.

It's normal for people to feel tense and on edge, if they feel like all eyes are on them. It's hard to work optimally in such an environment. But on the other hand, giving employees more autonomy creates a more relaxed atmosphere free of pressure and negativity.

Implement Equity and Exclusivity

It's essential to foster equity and exclusivity among employees. Favoritism can cause divisions and factions in the workplace, and the last thing you want is for your organization to feel like a war zone.

One of the best ways to prevent favoritism is ensuring that all work policies apply to everyone. In addition, management should not show any favoritism in communicating or interacting with a particular employee.

For instance, employees should never feel that management pays attention to one person more than others or that evaluation methods for employee performance are different.

Provide Training and Opportunities for Growth

Career growth is important to employees, and if they don't get growth opportunities, they will start feeling pessimistic about the situation.

As such, it's crucial to establish a culture of growth that motivates employees to become better versions of themselves. When employees are engaged in training and focused on development, they'll have a positive mindset and become more satisfied with their jobs.

Recognize and Reward Employees

As stated, positive reinforcement is one of the best ways of dealing with negativity at work. Besides providing constructive criticism, it's essential to recognize and reward employees who excel in their roles and contribute to a toxic-free work culture.

This encourages more positive behavior, and it tells employees the kind of behavior you would like to see more of.

Promote Positivity and Fun In the Workplace

It's hard for negativity to linger when management promotes positivity and camaraderie. Management can do this by establishing light-hearted traditions that everyone enjoys participating in.

For instance, you can use team-building activities to encourage collaboration and insert a bit of fun into the professional environment. You can also roll out other activities such as weekly lunches and company outings.

This gives everyone a chance to socialize and develop better interpersonal relationships. By giving employees more opportunities to know each other, you encourage them to trust each other. It's vital that employees feel like they are on the same team and work together to achieve a common goal. Once this happens, it's much easier to create a workplace environment that is healthy and positive.

The Final Word

Workplace negativity will not magically disappear on its own. However, applying these tips will help you successfully deal with negativity at work. Don't drop the ball once you have achieved a more positive work culture, but continue addressing negativity head-on. This is the key to better employee performance that pays off for your business.