Minimising workplace negativity risks

Negativity in the workplace can certainly decrease productivity and overall job satisfaction and that’s an uncontested fact.

Guest column: Emmanuel Zvada

It saps the vigour of your organisation and it distracts and drains the energy of your employees, thereby diverting critical attention of employees from work, productivity and performance issues.

Nothing affects employee morale like consistent workplace negativity, it can lead up to low morale, more frequent time off, and possibly employees leaving the company.

Negativity at workplaces can occur at the blind side of management. It happens so fast that if care is not taken and measures not put in place to reduce
it, it will creep deep into the entire business.
Ongoing workplace negativity is not uncommon and if not addressed in time or in the correct manner, a widespread effect on staff morale is inevitable.

Normally, a few employees breed highly contagious workplace negativity and it will have a spiralling effect on your workforce. One negative employee can infect a department or a work team, hence addressing worker negativity is a priority.

When rumblings and negativity are surfacing in your organisation, talking with employees will help you understand the exact problems and the degree to which the problems are impacting your workplace.

In addition, talking with employees will help you to identify the person/persons that are affected by these negative acts, those causing it and the actual issues that necessitated the negativity.

Diagnosing workplace negativity
Negativity is an increasing problem in the workplace, and the first indicator in diagnosing it by knowing what employees are saying, who are actually the influencers and also assessing what the problem they are facing could be.

Work-related stress is one of the main causes of negativity, especially when employees have an excessive workload and are feeling under-appreciated and overworked.

It is essential to pay attention to employee complaints, exit interviews and employee discussions and feedback to pick up any signs of negativity.

This information will help you learn to identify the symptoms of negativity before its consequences damage your work environment.

It will also help you prevent future negativity and cure any current workplace negativity

Workplace favouritism can also cause disgruntlement among co-workers. Favouritism normally comes from managers giving preferential treatment to certain staff members.

Preferential treatment can cause dissatisfaction to others, thus, breeding negativity towards work and the employer.

Appropriate rewards and recognition
Providing appropriate rewards and recognition helps employees feel their contribution is valued and this is critical in organisations.

The power of fair and appropriate rewards is remarkable in enhancing a positive workforce. Suffice to say, reward and recognition are two of the most powerful tools an organisation can use to sustain staff morale.

Recognition programmes can help to motivate employees in a way that encourages positive approaches to their jobs and tasks at hand.

People who feel appreciated end up experiencing more self-worth and improve their contributions to the company.

Treat your employees as adults

Treating your employees as adults with fairness and consistency is needed in organisations. As a manager, you are not supposed to create rules for all employees when just a few people are violating the norms.

Treat people as adults and they will usually live up to your expectations, and their own expectations. Treating others positively like we would like to be treated is a moral approach that crosses almost all religious and ethical frameworks.

The golden rule: “Do unto others” here works. Consciously put yourself in the shoes of your employees and ask yourself, how you would like to be treated if you were in their jobs?

You are supposed to treat employees like assets, not liabilities, and view them as valued business partners.

Some managers view their employees as liabilities — or like expenses that need to be minimised.

Others view employees like assets that are worth being developed and maximised, which is a more dignifying view. Also, the managers that view their employees as valued business partners are naturally going to treat them more respectfully.

Open the doors for your employees
The manager’s doors should be open to the subordinates. Regularly listen to your staff members’ complaints in order to find out if there are valid reasons for their negativity. Make certain that you assure your employees that their concerns will be heard on a regular basis.

More so, you are also to sit down on an individual basis with staff members who have negative feelings about their work and ask detailed questions to find out reasons why they have negative feelings. This will help you as a manager to deal with the issue at individual level.

Effective communication in the workplace
To avoid workplace negativity, make sure that you distribute important information across your entire staff compliment. Negativity arises when employees hear important news through the grapevine, instead of directly from the manager. Or a situation where a manager discusses issues of another employee with other employee, it breeds negativity.

Employees want to feel as if they are part of the company, especially when you communicate properly with them. If they understand the direction, and their part in making the desired outcomes happen, they can contribute more. Employees make better decisions for your business when you empower them with the information they need to make, decisions that strategically align with your overall direction.

Involve employees in decision making
Participation in the decision-making process gives each worker the chance to voice their opinions, and to share their knowledge with others. While this improves the relationship between a manager and an employee, it also encourages a strong sense of teamwork among workers.

The most frequent cause of workplace negativity is traceable to a manager or the organisation deciding about a person’s work without their input. Almost any decision that excludes the input of the person doing the work is perceived as negative. To reduce workplace negativity, provide opportunities for people to make decisions about and control and/or influence their own job.

Be consistent as an employer
Consistency means treating all employees equally. Fairness means treating each employee appropriately, and individually, based on the circumstances and contribution of that employee. Consistency requires good records.

When enforcing policies, promotions, or even demotions, be consistent in following established policies for how every employee or situation is treated.

When you treat others fairly two things happen. Your employees notice and respect you for it. Your reputation for fair play reinforces their belief in you. Second, the people who you treat fairly will respond in kind thus creating a culture of fairness in the company.

When grumbles and negativity begins in your organization, it is therefore the responsibility of human resources professionals to identify this cancer and quickly avert it, since we have a very close relationship with employees and at the same time serve employer’s interest of increasing performance, productivity and profitability.

It should be dealt with completely because it exposes the actual reputation of the business. The best way to combat workplace negativity is to keep it from occurring in the first place.


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