Dealing with Negativity in the Workplace

Things go wrong and people are going to complain. However, there is a difference from typical grumbling and toxic levels of negativity. You can get there pretty quickly; add poor communication and some authoritarian managers and presto you can be facing an epidemic of low morale and negative talking. The next thing you know people are bolting for the exits.

Gary Topchik, the author of Managing Workplace Negativity, sees that negativity is often the result of staff feeling a loss of confidence, control, or community. Its management’s job to turn things around, but that doesn’t mean the employees can sit back and continue bellyache and wait for the revolution.

Here’s how you fix it –

Management’s job:

Become Servant-Leaders. Servant Leadership is a model first developed by Robert K. Greenleaf back in 1970 and now embraced by just about all the outstanding companies.

Servant-leaders achieve results for their organizations by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve. It’s all about: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community.

Check out Benjamin Lichtenwalner blog Modern Servant Leaders and the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

Adopt Principles of Caring. In the bestselling book “Love Works”, By CEO Joel Manby he talks about the 7 principles Hershend Family Entertainment follow to make it one of the most positive work cultures on the planet.

Patient – Have self-control in difficult situations.
Kind – Show encouragement and enthusiasm.
Trusting – Place confidence in those around you.
Unselfish – Think of yourself less.
Truthful – Define reality corporately and individually.
Forgiving – Release the grip of the grudge.
Dedicated – Stick to your values in all circumstances.

Start making decision with staff input. Why is this so hard to do? If you want to give people a better sense of control, then start listening to what your employees have to say. But you say -“Then they will expect us to do what they want and they don’t understand all the details!”  True, but only if you don’t make it clear that you are collecting input to help you make a better decision. “Yeah but who has time for all this?”, you say. I hear yah, but you will make the time out when you employees are better engaged.

The employee’s job:

Take responsibility for making it right. It’s ok to complain, but then do something about it. John G. Miller says if you want to be outstanding then start asking the questions behind the questions. If you are hearing questions like “Why don’t they involve us in these decisions?”, “Who dropped the ball?”, “Who missed the deadline?” – then you need to start asking questions like: “What can I do to help out?”,”How can I be my best today?”,”What can I do to add value?”,”How can I practice ownership today?” You start taking personal responsibility for making things better I can guarantee you will stand out. Check out his work at

We will spend around 90,000 hours in our lives working, why should we spend a minute in an environment that is miserable when we can do something about it.

What has worked for you in addressing a negative culture?

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