Best Practices

SoMNSourceLink: Is Your Company's Work Environment Influenced by a Few Negative Nellies?

Published Sep 19, 2014 by

by: Maria Brown

One of my favorite newsletters comes from VitalSmarts, a company who teaches, and publishes books and newsletters on the “soft skills” people seem to have so much trouble with, not only at work but in their personal lives too. This site gives great tips on solving these difficult problems and is a great tool for those in leadership positions. 

The newsletter, published in a “question/answer format,” this week posed a question about, why does the negativity of just a small number of people trump the majority of positive members of a team?

The response’s author, David Maxfield, provides excellent reasons why negativity spreads and persists:

First, Maxfield reminds us that human nature is to sense danger; our survival instincts kick in. When people sense the negativity, or signal of danger at work, trouble brewing, they will pay attention even though they may normally be positive people. 

Secondly, the author states that people “pay attention to negative information” because they seek the real story, possible truths being hidden, either intentionally or not, by the organization. Even though sources may be less than reliable, they pay special attention. What’s the solution? As is so often drilled home leaders, transparent, open and frequent communication of the company’s reality to its people is the critical tool to use against this attack. 

The third reason cited is that many workers are timid and inhibited from speaking their inner feelings. Other workers in the ranks may feel it is their role to speak up for the rest. Some may be skilled at communicating to leadership, but others may not, and may do their speaking up in offensive or combative ways. Maxfield refers to the book Crucial Conversations as a tool to use among the workforce to help people learn skills and techniques to address difficult problems, both at work and at home!

Reasons four and five focus on negativity as a disrespectful behavior, and that negativity is a hard habit to break. Holding everyone accountable for respectful and open communications in the workplace, which may require some coaching and training, is essential. Without coworker to coworker accountability, the behaviors just carry on. Trust is eroded and good people end up isolating themselves, and may very well end up leaving.

Any size business large or small may have negativity present. Along with planning the next product or innovation, a leader’s job broadly encompasses the internal workings of the company as well. Tools and people are out there to help!

Content contributed by Maria Brown, SoMNSourceLink a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.