EAP Corner

Dealing With Negativity in the Workplace

„„ by Susan Milner, EAP Administrator

How many times have we found ourselves in a situation at work where co-workers are complaining, gossiping, and generally being unpleasant to work with? How many times might we have been those same employees? Perhaps we didn’t mean to engage in negativity or intend to be unproductive, and maybe we felt as if that was the “culture” of the company, so we played along and became like the others. It happens and it’s difficult to be objective when it comes to our own behaviors.

Author Cheryl DeMarco in Combating Workplace Negativity states that, “Negativity is a habit. When negativity takes over in a workplace, it becomes a part of the culture. The key is to keep negativity from taking ho because the impact of workplace negativity on your business can be devastating.” So what are the unintended consequences of negativity and how do they affect the bottom line? Research has shown that negativity in the workplace results in poor morale, absenteeism, customer dissatisfaction and increased employee turnover. But perhaps the most significant loss is decreased creativity. Studies have shown that when we work in an environment in which the culture promotes positive emotions, that environment leads toward collaboration and creativity. Creativity is the engine that drives successful business environments. Whether our emotions are positive or negative, it is important to remember that all are contagious, especially when they are fostered and supported in a group setting.

So how do we begin to support a culture of positivity in our workplace? First we should start with our own negativity and ask the question, “How can I recognize when I am being negative?” Consider your thoughts, body language and tone of voice. Be aware of your negative thoughts, such as, “I feel stuck in this position”, or “My supervisor is an idiot”, or “Things are unfair. I do more than so and so, and they are being paid more,” etc. Challenge your thoughts and question if they really reflect your truth or
are you stuck in a rut of complaining. Our thoughts create our reality, and so when we think these thoughts, it is helpful to consider what sort of effect this has on our mental and physical well-being.

It may help to remember that you have choices. Being negative is a choice. Feeling stuck in your current position is a choice. Resenting your supervisor is a choice. There are always choices and sometimes it may be to choose to find another job, stay and make the best of your situation
or stay and make the worst of it. So what should we do? Instead of being a part of the problem, become part of the solution. First, it may help if we recognize our own bias toward negativity and really consider the consequences. Ask yourself, “Why do I have this particular behavior?” And, “How can I change it?” Ask for help within your workplace environment and inform your co-workers that you intend to make
a positive change.

Focus on solutions to problems and don’t dwell on the situations over which you have no control. Make a promise to yourself that you won’t engage in negative talk or that you’ll counteract negativity with a positive spin. Model the behavior that you admire in others and be the change you
wish to see. Make an effort to do one positive thing and see how your
workplace changes in just 21 days – the time it takes to create a new habit.

Our Employee Assistance Program at Wholeness Healing Center can help you deal with negativity in the workplace, as well as a myriad of other workplace issues. We can provide training and development seminars as well as benefit plans for your employees’ well-BEING. Call our EAP
Administrator,  at 382-5297, ext. 127 today for more information. Wholeness Healing EAP offers “solutions that work for people at work!”

Works Cited

DeMarco, C. (2007). Combating workplace negativity. Retrieved June 21, 2012, from EzineArticles.com: www.workexcel.net

Halford, S. (2009, August 5). Identify and cure negative workplace attitudes. Retrieved June 21, 2012, from entrepreneur.com:

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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