Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 11th 2013 Contents B21
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Your workplace is seething with hostility
and negativity. No matter where the bad vibes
came from, it s up to you to help make the
atmosphere more positive, productive and
supportive. As a manager, supervisor, or staff
member, you usually do not control the sit-
uation that is causing the negativity. Perhaps
no one in your workplace does. How you
address negativity depends on whether you
control it and how it started in the first place.
The timeliness of your intervention also has
Addressing negativity prevents workplace
violence, promotes workplace safety, and creates
positive employee morale.
When you can control or influence
This is a best case scenario. You have received
feedback about negative rumours and you
know that the underlying cause of the negativity
is based on faulty information, incorrect
assumptions, or deliberate misinformation.
You may receive feedback that a new policy
or procedure is not understood correctly. People
may be misinterpreting a corporate memo.
An industry newsletter might have referenced
an industry problem your company does not
share. You may have fired an individual who
is circulating false information about the com-
pany. In each of these circumstances, you have
some control over the information, the situ-
ation, and the communication. You can solve
the problem and communicate well to over-
come the negativity.
When you can control or influence the sit-
uation, use a systematic problem-solving
process with the affected employees to improve
the identified areas of negativity. Do this as
quickly as you determine that negativity exists.
(Many human resources offices launch a com-
plete investigation, and by the time the facts
are gathered, the negativity is out of control. )
Include the employees who are closest to the negative
situation in the problem-solving process. Do a good
cause analysis so that all possible causes of the negativity
are identified. It is not enough to say, "We have low
morale." You need to identify exactly what is causing
the low morale to have any chance of improving it.
Solicit widespread input to each step of the action plan
you develop so that solutions are "owned" across your
organisation. Involve as many people as you can in its
development and particularly in its implementation.
Implement the chosen solutions quickly. Then, periodically
assess that the plan is working.
At each step of the problem-solving process, com-
municate as much information as you have about the
negativity and the solutions. When the solutions selected
in the action plan are rolled out, people in the organisation
are not surprised. They have participated in the information
exchange as each step or opportunity was discussed.
Negativity often occurs when people are impacted by
decisions and issues that are out of their control. Examples
of these include: corporation downsizing; understaffing
that requires people to work mandatory overtime; budget
reductions; and upper-management decisions that
adversely impact members of your staff.
Under these circumstances, try some of the following
• Identify any aspects of the situation that you can
impact including providing feedback in your organisation
about the negative impact that is occurring. (Sometimes
decisions are made and no one understands or predicts
their outcome. Sometimes you can influence an issue
or a decision if you practice personal, professional courage
and speak your mind.
• Listen, listen, listen. Often people just need a sounding
board. Be visible and available to staff. Proactively schedule
group discussion sessions, town meetings, "lunches with
the manager," or one-on-one blocks of time.
• Challenge pessimistic thinking and negative beliefs
about people, the company, and the work area. Don t
let negative, false statements go unchallenged.If the
statements are true, provide the rationale, the corporate
thinking, and the events that are responsible for the
negative circumstances. Share everything you know
about a situation to build trust with the workforce.
• Ask open-ended questions to determine the cause,
and the scope of the negative feelings or reaction. Maybe
it s not as bad as people think; maybe their interpretation
of events is faulty. Helping people identify exactly what
they feel negatively about is the first step in solving the
problem. You can t solve a fog of unhappiness. Help
people create options, feel included, and feel part of the
communication and problem solving.
Recognise that, sometimes, a negative
outlook may be appropriate.
If the negativity emanates from an individual, you
Inform the employee about the negative impact her
negativity is having on co-workers and the department.
Use specific examples that describe behaviors the employ-
ee can do something about.
Avoid becoming defensive. Don t take the employee s
negative words or attitude personally.
Focus on creating solutions. Don t focus on everything
that is wrong and negative; focus instead on creating
options for positive morale. If the person is unwilling
to hold this discussion, and you feel you have fairly heard
her out, end the discussion.
Focus on the positive aspects and contributions the
individual brings to the work setting, not the negativity.
Help the employee build her self-image and capacity
to contribute. Compliment the individual any time you
hear a positive statement or contribution rather than
negativity from her. If none of the above is working and
the employee s negativity is impacting productivity,
workplace harmony, and department members attitudes
and morale, deal with the negativity as you would any
other performance issue
Managing and solving workplace negativity
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