Minimizing Workplace Negativity to Improve Productivity
Nothing drains the morale of an employee faster than an environment that is characterized by consistent negativity. Apart from sapping their energies, it also makes employees unwilling to assume new roles and responsibilities, thus making their creative and innovative capacity to suffer.
Workplace negativity can occur in various forms – low morale, absenteeism, burnouts, power struggles, and lack of teamwork – and it is one of the few reasons employees often leave some organizations (The University of Southern California states that workplace negativity costs companies around $3 billion a year). View it as a wildfire that easily spreads – from within a team to departments and the organization at large.
Since workplace negativity could affect performance and productivity, it is necessary for people managers or human resource professionals, especially, to identify the symptoms of negativity early enough to forestall possible damages to the workplace. This can be done with open dialogue, tea talk discussions within the employees or managing appraisal and feedback process.
Workplace Negativity Diagnosis
The first step to curtailing workplace negativity is to know the cause, whether immediate or distant. What (issues) are the employees negative about? Which group of employees is affected? To what extent are the issues affecting the workplace?
Talking with a few employees gives the manager a clue about the cause. Perhaps, it was a decision made by the management team of the organization that is causing some grumbles. Or a certain response by a supervisor was perceived to be threatening. It could even be as a result of the failure to compensate or recognize an employee for a job done well.
Whatever the cause of the negativity is, nipping it in the bud saves the organization from heavy losses.
Tips to Minimize Workplace Negativity
One of the best ways to improve productivity is to create a positive environment. However, if negativity is perceived, the effects could be minimized by the following practices to improve staff performance.
Reward and acknowledge good work
Rewards and acknowledgements are critical tools that uplift the mood and optimism of employees as failure to recognize your employees’ efforts can bring about negativity. However, it is not about appreciating top performers alone. Rather, it also includes recognizing every team member. It is the only way through which they feel their contribution is recognized and valued. Rewards based on employee performance don’t necessarily have to be expressed in monetary terms. It could be a simple “Thank you for a good job!” comment, expressed in a sincere tone. Employees tend to make the most impact when they are valued.
Treat employees equally and with respect
No employee will accept to be treated unfairly, especially under their supervisors. Employees are not just resources that should be used; they are people that deserve to be respected. As a supervisor, be respectful in your dealings with your employees. You may even seek to know them personally. Avoid criticizing them in the presence of other employees. If you would, do so privately. It shows that your private, constructive criticisms are to make them improve rather than to humiliate them.
Also, favouritism can build a feeling of resentment among employees. It tends to reduce loyalty and make employees develop negative attitudes towards the organization at large. As an HR manager or supervisor, ensure the mode of evaluating all employees is the same. Avoid having an open preference for a particular employee. Also, establish a process whereby employees can report bias. When equal treatment and opportunities are promoted, employees are happier and become more productive.
Communicate effectively and constantly
Every organization has a channel of communication, usually top-down. Quick and open communication is essential to ensuring seamless operations, which further improve productivity. This contributes to the employee performance management system in a positive way. When employees are uncertain about a message or directive, fear and negativity is birthed. This affects their attitude to work negatively. To avoid this, communicate, in clear terms, workplace policies and procedures to your employees. While encouraging open communication, create a process where feedback can be received; otherwise, you are promoting one-way communication that doesn’t give a voice to the employees. Suffice to say that, over-communication cannot occur, especially when the goal is to minimize negativity.
Create opportunities for employees to express their opinions
An organization that refuses to recognize the inputs of its employees is simply promoting a negative attitude in employees. You may not know that employees possess great innovative ideas that can bring about a significant change in the organization. Such ideas can only be revealed when employees are given opportunities to express themselves. They may have better suggestions on organizational aptitude that can increase their confidence and commitment to work – work hours, salary, dress codes, working conditions, and company policies. Creating a feeling of inclusiveness by requesting for employees’ inputs gives them a sense of belonging, and demonstrates to them that they are valued. The result is more positivity about their work and organization.
Rethink overworking your employees
Employees are not machines and cannot work round the clock without some break-even machines do break down at one time. Employees that are overworked are disengaged and unproductive. As a manager or supervisor, define tasks and set priorities in a way that makes them realistic and achievable. Deadlines should not be too strict such that they affect productivity. While it is good to encourage employees to work harder to achieve set goals within a certain timeframe, it shouldn’t be to the detriment of their mental or physical energy.
Workplace negativity usually leads to several negative consequences, and dealing with unhappy employees is great stress. Employees who left their jobs due to bad company culture may have cost organizations over $220 billion over the past five years, reports the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Minimizing workplace negativity could be best achieved by promoting a positive culture and open communication at the workplace, and the tips highlighted above are critical to the achievement of the goal. A positive work culture enhances happiness, minimizes stress, increases commitment, reduces turnover, and, consequently, increases productivity.