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How to Deal With Negativity in the Office

by Maya Fetterman

Workplace negativity is bad for morale, productivity, and outlook. Negative behavior amongst employees can lead to poor employee satisfaction and poor employee morale. Therefore, HR professionals must work to overcome negativity in the workplace to provide employees with a positive office environment which in turn will lead to decreased employee turnover. If negative behaviors and a negative office environment is not dealt with quickly, it can have a long-term effect on the company culture, the entire team and hence can hinder the success of the company.

How to prevent employees from having a negative attitude

It doesn't matter if your boss is angry or your coworkers gossip about each other. These negative attitudes at work cause workplace negativity. By taking the right steps and having the courage to speak up, you can effectively deal with these problems and create a positive workplace environment.

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Find Out What's Wrong.

Although it seems easier to hide negative attitudes from other employees, open communication is vital to identify and handle negativity in the workplace. It is vital that HR teams and management recognize and identify what could be causing these negative attitudes amongst employees, for example poor work hours, uncomfortable dress codes, overtime hours, working conditions, a bad work environment and negative workplace culture. Management should be open to receiving feedback in such areas, with ears open.

Employees should feel able to express opinions in the workplace, and therefore management should implement an open door policy to allow open communication and feedback within the organization. If this open communication is not encouraged, this can lead to a vicious cycle of negativity in the workplace, poor culture, and attitude, which will impact the entire team, and contribute to decreased productivity. Therefore, feedback will create positivity and a positive attitude in the company.

It is also important to be able to have an open and honest conversation with one employee with a negative attitude to overcome negativity in the workplace. This constructive criticism can overcome a major issue within a team and can prevent bad behavior.

Before having a conversation, think about the following questions to help you have a more thoughtful and productive conversation:

  • Is the company doing what it says it will to help our employees? - Are all of the workplace policies being fulfilled?

  • As a business leader, am I using effective strategies that help to keep people safe and happy at work? - This will ensure workplace relationships stay positive

  • What in the organisation could be creating this negativity? Employee engagement throughout the company must be evaluated to see if this contributes to a positive mindset or workplace negativity.

Be clear.

Don't say, "We don't like how you act." This won't be a very productive conversation. Rather, say, "Speaking loudly to your coworker in front of other people is making the office a lot more tense." To start a more open and effective conversation, they should say how their actions are making people around them feel,

Be Precise.

Employees feel frustrated when receiving feedback that is vague and negative. Therefore, discuss specific job requirements and identify concerns regarding negative behavior and negative attitude. Recognize the positive things the employee is doing, since the employee will not respond well to purely negative comments. If you focus on this conversation, then this will create a positive workplace culture and reduce negativity.

Giving and Getting Feedback.

As a leader, your job is to help your employees grow both personally and professionally. To do this, you need to give them actionable and useful feedback. Not only does this help staff communicate more effectively, but it also has long-term benefits for the whole group.

Ask them what they think and listen to what they say.

Healthy feedback loops are important for both management and employees. You should be able to speak up about ideas and concerns. After giving your employee feedback, set aside some time for them to talk to you about what you said, creating an open and positive work environment.

You can start this by asking:

  • "What do you think?"

  • "Do you have everything you need?"

  • "What would make it easier for you to work?"

  • "Is there anything I'm reading or understanding wrong?"

  • "I'd like to know what might be going on."

After you listen to your employees, you should say: " 'You feel [emotional state] because of [summary of situation]." After confirming that you understand (often feeling misunderstood is the reason for bad behaviour), you can then work together to come up with possible solutions to combat workplace negativity and create a more positive work environment.

Advice must be clear and actionable.

When you've dealt with the root cause of bad behaviour, employees feel reassured when given concrete advice. It's all about setting your mind up in the right way.

Don't just say that they're doing something wrong. It's not good to say, "You're so negative!" Stay focused on actions or behaviours that they can improve on. The key is to show employees how to change their bad habits into good ones that help both them and all the employees on their team. Then discuss what to do next.

Suppose an employee is complaining about a problem with a client project. You can remind them of specific examples of past victories and how, even though there were problems and negativity, the team was able to focus to create positive outcomes for the organization. If specific employees feel more positivity, this can affect other employees, helping to combat negativity in the workplace.


What if we were to tell you that there are tools on the market today that can alert you if there is a cause for concern in your organization? What happens when corporate culture begins to deteriorate, and you don’t even know about it because the reviews are yearly? ELEFense can help. ELEFense analyses company sentiment & keywords to reveal Enterprise Cultural Health and quantify how people feel in real time to give you an unprecedented insight of trends and events. This can enable your team and organization to eliminate bad attitudes and create a positive work environment.

How to Deal With Negativity in the Office


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