Managing Negativity at Work

Posted February 18th, 2009

Unfortunately, negativity is a natural part of wokring in a business environment. There is often discontent in some form or another and a good leader recognises this. By developing an inclusive approach to leadership and involving your team in decision making processes it is possible that the likelihood of negativity arising is minimised, but you should be prepared to deal with it when it does appear as even the most effective leader will run into negativity at some point in their career. The big problem is that negativity can be contagious and once it rears its head, can be very difficult to manage.

Sometimes negativity will arise as a result of company processes or changes required to make an organisation more effective. It can also arise over time for what appears to be no obvious reason.

An organisation that is in the grip of negativity will display an increase in the amount of complaining, a focus on why things cannot be done, a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude and a view that things will never get better.

When negativity arises, it can sap your energy as a leader and potentially pull you into its grasp. A great leader will use simple techniques to manage negativity in the workplace and ensures their own attitude remains positive and focused.

The following suggestions will help you to overcome negativity when it arises:

Acknowledge negativity

Negativity will not go away if you ignore it, in fact it will most likely get worse. If it is not acknowledged, you will lose credibility as a leader. Discuss the negative feelings with those concerned, show that you care and ask for suggestions on how you might overcome the issue.

Identify the positives in all situations

It is easy to be dismissive and ignore the input from our team members. Celebrate the small victories and where suggestions will not work, try and identify the elements that you can work on. Positive actions are often a result of lots of little actions rather than one big one.

Give positive recognition often

This is something that is often overlooked and leaders can fall into the trap of considering the efforts of their team as ‘part of their role’. Everybody likes to be recognised for their success, so be prepared to acknowledge it at every opportunity.

Avoid colluding on negativity

This can be hard! We all like to have a moan about things. However, by remaining upbeat and positive, we put out the flames of negativity before they start.

Focus on issues, not personalities

When you are addressing negativity head on, you should remove the focus from the person and instead look at the issue at hand. Otherwise you risk undermining that person and might escalate the negativity.

Understand their feelings

Put yourself in the shoes of the person who feels negative. This does not mean for you to become negative too, but for you to understand how they might feel in this situation and resolve it accordingly.

Express your ideas and feelings

Don’t be scared to let people know how you feel and provide an insight into what you are thinking. Most negative issues can be resolved when everyone is open and honest about their feelings.

Be willing to compromise

As long as the new position is fair, you lose nothing by moving your stance slightly on an issue to ensure all parties are happy. Just because you are the leader, it does not mean that you cannot modify your position.

It’s not unusual for organisations to go through periods of negativity. How long that negativity progresses is often down to you as a leader. By displaying the correct attitudes and behaviours, you are likely to managing negativity and stop it from becoming an inherent problem. With an open and honest approach to the workplace, you might even remove the likelihood of negativity arising in the first place.

This article is taken from an excerpt in the training course materials, ‘Great Leadership’, which are available to buy from our website – Trainer Bubble training course materials. Visit today for this and many other great training courses.


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