HR TODAY: Minimizing workplace negativity

Negativity at the workplace can happen at the blind side of management. It happens so fast that if care is not taken it creeps deep into the entire business. Nothing affects the morale of employees more severely than insistent negativity at the workplace.

It drains the energy of your employees and diverts critical attention from work, productivity and performance. Negativity can ensue from the attitudes, viewpoints and presumably the talk of just an individual, or in a crescendo of voices of people with similar interest snapping to a business decision or activity at the workplace.

It is therefore the responsibility of HR professionals to identify this cancer and quickly avert it, since we have a very close relationship with employees which sometimes affects personal dealings. Negativity can be manifested in exit interviews, culture surveys, staff fora’s and employee complaints. It exposes the actual reputation of the business. The 360 feedback sessions, intranet use amongst others are tools by which these negativity can be exposed.

This piece of information will enable you appreciate and also detect the indicators of negativity before it damage your workplace beyond redemption. It can be so bad that apart from it affecting productivity, it also breeds bad relationship which extends beyond working environment.

Negativity is an increasing problem in the workplace, according to Gary S. Topchik, the author of Managing Workplace Negativity. He states, in a Management Review article, that negativity is often the result of a loss of confidence, control, or community. It also means the decay in leadership and an ineffective HR processes, procedures and practices (PPP’s). It then brings into question the corporate culture of the business, especially with HR as the custodian of these best systems.

Identifying the actual negative issue is the beginning of the corrective process. HR must first identify the problem and develop a better, adequate and equitable system to curb this menace.

When grumbles and negativity begins in your organization, talking with employees will help you understand the exact problems and the degree to which the problem is affecting your workplace, performance, employee morale and productivity. Identify the person/persons that are affected by these negative acts, those causing it and the actual event that necessitated these employee negativity.

Certain decisions made by the business can adversely affect staff. Possibly, the leadership held a staff meeting and was perceived to threaten or disregard people asking sincere questions or better still refuse to act on very important employee concerns; it makes people feel insecure.

Perchance, underground rumors are circulating about an imminent redundancy exercise which is about to take place. Whatever the cause of the workplace negativity, you must work towards addressing the issues or the negativity. Suppressing the issues without talking about them with the fear of stepping on toes or hurting the sensibilities of employees will build tension and explode when you least expect.

The best way to combat workplace negativity is to keep it from occurring in the first place. These guidelines will help curtail negativity at the workplace.

 Provide practical leadership with a clear vision, mission, values and a concise job expectations from employees.

 Treat people as adults with fairness and consistency.

 Respond to employee complaints swiftly.

 Provide the necessary logistics for work enhancement.

 Give employees the chance to grow and develop in their careers.

 Help people with information by means of developing an effective communication module.

 Develop systems where people can make decisions about what imparts and influences their jobs.

 Create avenues for people to express their opinion about workplace policies, processes and procedures (PPP’s).

 Don’t entertain office rumours.

 Develop rewards and recognition systems (R&R).

Monitor and evaluate how the stated guidelines are helping curb employee negativity amongst your employees; if it’s not working, review it and adopt something new. Taken these issues seriously only means that we will have a very positive workforce with high productivity.

It has been proven over time that people by nature do not want to be guided by rules and regulations, if we allow people in an office setting to work without any form of control, we will be heading for disaster. It is for this reasons that we need to wipe people into line so we don’t encourage negativity. Again note that becoming an employer of choice should be a long term vision of every business and therefore requires that we work towards achieving that goal.

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