Don’t let negativity control your workplace culture

We have all worked with people who see the worst in everything. They always have something to complain about. In their eyes, everything is lousy, and bound to get worse.

Don't let negativity control

As employees, being surrounded by that kind of negativity can bring everyone down. It slows productivity and drives turnover. Besides, who wants to work in an atmosphere where the cup is always half empty?

Left unaddressed, negativity can become part of your workplace culture. It is the result of behaviors that an organization and its leaders support and encourage — or enable and ignore. When negative people are allowed to continue working for your organization, it sends a strong message to other employees that this behavior is acceptable.

So how do you combat negativity?

First, strong organizations make a conscious effort to thank employees and show appreciation. Rewarding positive outcomes and positive efforts takes the focus away from the sourpusses.

Strong leaders also work to redirect negative conversations into positive ones. It’s easy to find problems. But what are the solutions? And how will everyone work together to make those solutions a reality?

When we reframe group problems into strength-based aspirations, it pulls people together for a common cause.

Lastly, the best way to douse the flames of negativity is to employ a strategy of relentless positivity. When organizations genuinely encourage and reward positive behavior, others take notice. Positivity is like a muscle: It needs to be exercised.

Looking at the big picture, here are other ways strong organizations keep a lid on negativity:

  • Empower people throughout the organization to make decisions.
  • Facilitate reframing sessions to turn problems into aspirational goals.
  • Use employee survey data and feedback to uncover causes of negativity.
  • Help negative groups to identify strengths and improvement opportunities.

Watch for common obstacles, such as:

  • Leaders and managers who feed a culture of negativity.
  • Failing to celebrate achievements (both big and small).
  • Allowing or enabling negative behaviors.
  • Assuming the worst will always happen.

Remember: Negativity is contagious, and when left unchecked, it will quickly spread.

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s partner for Top Workplaces.

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