Pathway Design Group's

Campfire Chats

Navigating Negativity in the Workplace

Welcome back to the Pathway Blog! We’ve talked in the past about toxic positivity — how an unconditionally positive approach can have seriously negative effects on your workplace — but we’re here today to tackle the other end of that spectrum. 

What if you’ve got staff members with a perpetually negative attitude, and it’s beginning to cause problems within your organization? How do you navigate that without causing even more problems? 

While we don’t have a magic spell that will keep negativity at bay, we do have a few tips to try before having to take more drastic steps.

1. Don’t give misery any company.

If you notice negativity happening in your workplace, remember: misery loves company. Unhappy people don’t want to be unhappy alone, and if you let yourself get pulled into that negativity, there’s a good chance the whole situation will snowball into something bigger than you wanted it to be. Be kind, be empathetic, but also make sure to focus on yourself and your own personal feelings and behavior; what are your thoughts on the situation, without the influence of someone else?

2. Ask questions.

More often than not, workplace negativity is caused by misunderstandings and miscommunications. A great way to battle this is by simply asking questions, before making judgments:

“Why do you think this is happening?” 

“What do you think would be a good solution?”

“Have you talked to this person about this?”

Rarely does someone want to spread negativity; approaching them with empathy and curiosity can be a good way to stop the problem before it gets too big.

3. Investigate complaints.

It’s important to find out if there’s an actual problem occurring that you need to be aware of. If negativity seems to be stemming from a common complaint, there’s a chance your staff could have a good reason for feeling negative. 

4. Take negative staff members aside privately.

The problem with negativity is that it can spread quickly and effectively. It’s important to stop the negativity at the source, but hopefully not in a way that makes things worse. If you have employees who are commonly spreading discontent, talking to them privately is a good way to get to the bottom of it. Approaching these conversations with a spirit of collaboration (“Let’s work together to make things better,”) is a good way to try to steer the interaction toward something positive. 

5. Make sure comments and complaints are easy and safe to file.

Do you have a plan in place for staff to share their concerns? Whether you hold regular check-ins or have an anonymous suggestion/complaint box, it’s extremely important for coworkers and staff to be able to submit their concerns safely. This can go a long way toward stopping negativity before it grows into something unmanageable. 

The beautiful thing about being humans is that we’re all different! That, of course, means we’re bound to bump heads along the way. Approaching negativity in the workplace works best when done with empathy and a healthy set of boundaries and expectations. Being able to navigate these situations effectively is a great sign that your organization is on the right track to success!