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Reduce Workplace Negativity (Before Negativity Reduces your Workplace)

A common question I get asked from leaders and professionals alike is “How do you manage negative employees that have poor attitudes?” Truth is, there is no simple answer. Even the best organizations have employees that can be negative.

There are any number of factors that could be contributing to negative attitudes and it's important to find out the cause. Maybe an employee is upset about a recent change that was implemented and he/she feels out of the loop on the communication regarding that change. Perhaps an employee feels like he/she is giving more to the organization than he/she is receiving. It could be an employee feels as though a coworker was given an unfair review during his/her performance appraisal.

Whatever the reason may be,

it’s important to address the issue.

Otherwise, the negative behavior can turn volatile. It only takes one negative person to cause serious damage to an organization.

It’s important to remember that you need to meet people where they’re at. By this I mean you may not always have the power or authority to control the situation, but you need to meet that person where they’re at, assess the situation, and do what you can to change the environment.

Here are some helpful tips to reduce negatively in the workplace:

1) Allow people to make decisions that matter. An employee who constantly feels disempowered or micromanaged is sure to grumble. Give employees opportunities to make decisions about their own work as well as what it is they believe the client or customer needs. Look for ways in which they can help contribute fresh ideas not only to their own leader(s) and team members, but to other leaders and employees throughout the organization.

2) Give people a voice and allow them to express it. It’s important that your organization has an employee handbook (check out our HR Management services if you’d like help creating one). These policies and procedures are extremely beneficial. It’s equally as important to ensure employees have a say about these policies that they’re expected to adhere to every day. Conducting an employee survey when making changes to policies is a good way to make sure your organization’s culture is aligned with employee needs. It may not be possible, realistic, or valuable to accommodate every employee’s need, but giving them a voice can help eliminate negative push back.

3) Treat people fairly and respectfully. A surefire way to cause negatively among employees is if you treat one employee differently from another. When exceptions are made and rules are bent for certain employees, it’s unfair for others. Treating everyone fairly and applying policies consistently helps eliminate perceived unfairness. It’s up to you to speak up if you think exceptions are being made or a certain employee is being treated unfairly. On a related note, don’t blast everyone with an email reminder about a company policy if only one or two people are violating the policy. Respect those who are following the policy by not slamming them with the rules when you should really be having a one-on-one conversation with the person who is violating the policy.

Empowering, respecting, and valuing people may seem like simple acts but they will go a long way in reducing negative perceptions and attitudes.

What are some ways you or your workplace combat negative employees? Leave a comment – I’d like to hear from you!


We provide Talent, leadership, and organizational development consulting and coaching for business people. Want to learn more about the Corporate Talent Institute?

Whitney Ohmer is a Talent and Organizational Development consultant for the Corporate Talent Institute.

To learn more about her organization, visit


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