A common challenge for any organization arises when dealing with negativity in the midst of its workforce.  During my employment at an Arizona based HR consulting company, I received numerous calls from employers seeking advice concerning negativity within their organization.  People with very different personalities do not always get along.  Often times people do not enjoy what they do, or hate certain tasks associated with their role in the company.  Many people feel undervalued or underpaid in their current position.  These are just a few things that can bring about negativity among one’s workforce.  Whatever the cause of the negativity may be, the results are consistently similar.  Negative people are less productive.  Additionally, one or two negative people can bring down the morale of everyone they come into contact with.  Have you ever heard the saying “one bad apple spoils the bunch” or “a chain is only as strong as its’ weakest link”?  Sayings such as the two provided, along with many others that I am sure you can think of, rain abundantly true in the work place.  So this begs the question, “How do I overcome negativity in the workplace?”

The most vital step in eliminating workplace negativity, especially if you are going to be the driving force behind the solution, is addressing your own negative thoughts.  It is unrealistic to think that anyone will always be positive; however, before we can initiate a change we must begin working on our own negativity.  One thing that I have seen work exceptionally well is simply trying to smile more.  Smiles project a positive energy to others along with making you feel better.  Have you ever heard anyone say “smiles and laughter are contagious”?  Try it out; you may get a pleasant surprise.

The second step to overcoming negativity in the workplace, is improving how you deal with frustration and stress.  Let’s look at a situation that would commonly cause frustration and negativity.  Steve is at work today diligently working on a very important project for one of his clients.  At 12:00 he gets up and decides he is going to have a quick lunch before coming back and putting the finishing touches on his project.  When Steve returns from lunch, he feels refreshed and ready to get back to work.  However, when Steve turns on his computer monitor he realizes that his project has been closed and all of his work from this morning is now lost!  Our hypothetical employee is obviously angry, frustrated, stressed, and a plethora of other emotions all at the same time.  The key is how will Steve deal with his emotions?  He could: A) Walk around with a scowl on his face for the rest of the day, ready to unleash a fit of rage on the first person that crosses his path.  B) Bottle up his emotions while he finishes his day at work, then unload on his wife, dog, or any other poor sole that he may encounter after work.  Or C) Take a deep breath, regain his composure, maybe even vent to a close friend, and then go about getting his project complete.  Obviously C is the best answer.  It is very important for employees to manage their frustrations.  This will help them to keep from bringing every one else down with them.

The third and final step that we are going to look at for overcoming negativity in the workplace, is addressing “the bad apples”.  Managers are responsible for letting employees know what they are doing right, and wrong, along with informing them of areas that could use a little fine tuning.  Therefore, one effective strategy managers should implement is to bring the negative individual into your office and do a little probing.  Once the source of the employee’s negativity is realized, management can begin to take the steps necessary in order to correct the underlying issues.  Whether the source is simple or complex, personal or professional, with a little creative thinking most problems will not be that difficult to overcome.

Workplace negativity can be detrimental to any organization.  On the other hand, a positive environment can make even the worst of jobs enjoyable.  Check your personal problems at the door, always look at the bright side, smile a little more often, and who knows, you may find yourself more productive and happier than ever.

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