Beating negativity in the workplace

Written by Jonathan Ross
22 Nov 2023

Have you ever crossed paths with the perpetual naysayer? You know, the one who thrives on saying “It won’t work,” “That’s impossible,” or the one I hate the most, “We have tried that before”? Their mere presence in a meeting can cast a shadow of doom, draining everyone’s energy, and leaving a trail of demotivation. So, how do you handle these perpetual pessimists without letting their negativity torpedo your team and organisation?

The Psychology of Negativity

In the workplace, consistent negativity often hides behind a veil of complex psychological factors. Burnout can turn even the brightest stars into relentless naysayers when they feel overburdened and under-appreciated. Personal life stressors, like financial woes or family upsets, can cast a gloomy cloud over how they show up, making negativity a go-to coping mechanism.

Unresolved workplace conflicts are also fertile ground for breeding negativity. Instead of addressing issues head-on, employees may opt for passive-aggressive behaviours. And negativity’s impact isn’t confined to the meeting room; it can infiltrate your team’s culture, resulting in emotional drain, disengagement, and a lack of feeling emotionally safe.

7 Steps to a Positive Team Culture

 Negativity in the workplace and in meetings takes on diverse forms, ranging from relentless criticism and cynicism to dismissive comments and unwavering resistance to fresh ideas. While a moderate dose of “creative tension” or “constructive conflict” can invigorate innovative thinking and lead to improved decision-making, allowing negativity to run unchecked threatens to corrode team unity and damage interpersonal relationships.

Addressing negativity isn’t about simply creating harmony. It’s a strategic move.

Here are seven steps for crushing negativity and creating a positive team culture:

  1. Private Dialogues: Start with a heart-to-heart talk, embracing active listening and empathy.
  2. Constructive Feedback: Highlight specific negative behaviours and their impact, offering alternative paths.
  3. Clear Expectations: Define desired behaviour, emphasising respect and open-mindedness.
  4. Self-Reflection: Encourage self-assessment and the development of emotional intelligence.
  5. Facilitative Intervention: In meetings, steer the ship away from negativity and toward solutions, reinforcing positive contributions.
  6. Positive Feedback: Cultivate appreciation and gratitude among the team by recognising achievements and positive behaviour shifts when you see them.
  7. Consistent Follow-Up: Keep tabs on progress, applaud efforts, and constructively address setbacks.

Addressing negativity isn’t about simply creating harmony. It’s a strategic move. In a positive environment, teams unite, discussions thrive, and innovation flourishes. Focused meetings with a positive focus save time and resources, boosting productivity. Loyal employees gravitate toward organisations that value their well-being and embrace positivity, ultimately fostering a culture of success.