The Impact Of Workplace Negativity

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Human Resources Professional

Across the board, organizations focus time, effort, and resources primarily on their key business objectives. While the emphasis is on finished work products, whatever those may be, it is also critical to consider the individuals that are actually helping the company reach its goals.

Over the past decade, the role of Human Resources has evolved significantly. Historically, the HR function was considered more administrative and reactionary; in other words managing paperwork and resolving issues.

However, now Human Resources professionals are viewed as strategic partners to the leadership team and are usually empowered to take a more proactive approach in supporting employees. The cost of acquiring and terminating employees are both fairly high, however the price tag on an employee with low morale is even more substantial.

Understanding the impacts of workplace negativity on employee performance, team dynamics, and productivity are crucial to development. Consider assessing your organization’s culture and having direct conversations with your leadership team to avoid, resolve, or minimize the effects.

Understand the Dynamics

The reality is that there will be negativity in the workplace from time to time; this is unavoidable. When employees come to work, they typically bring other aspects of their lives with them- many of which impact productivity and interactions with colleagues.

On the other hand, work related issues may result in negativity as well. It is important to understand that, although it does impede productivity, not all negativity in the workplace can be avoided. As fallible human beings, there may be instances in which one colleague unknowingly perpetrates negativity.

Consider educating employees to enhance emotional intelligence; depending upon the organizational culture, hosting a series of workshops or even releasing a short white paper to explain the importance of understanding the role that emotions play in the workplace can result in a significant change in dynamics.

At the core of emotional intelligence is developing insight into the manner in which an individual’s actions are perceived by others, as well as accurately relating to and empathizing with others’ emotions. While this is not something that is typically a topic of workplace conversation, it certainly plays a significant role in workplace dynamics.

Know the Facts

Overall, the effects of workplace negativity can include diminished productivity, lowered morale, loss of key talent, and damage of critical customer relationships. An article by the Harvard Business Review further demonstrates the severe ramifications of workplace negativity. The study demonstrates that 80 percent of employees impacted by workplace negativity waste time worrying about and analyzing the incident. Nearly half of those who spend time thinking about what happened do not work as hard moving forward, or resort to presentism- spending less time working despite physical presence in the workplace.

Productivity, collaboration and team dynamics also suffer as employees attempt to avoid their aggressor. It is reported that 78 percent of employees feel less committed to the organization.

Aside from morale issues, business objectives are significantly impacted as well- it was found that 25 percent of employees that experienced negativity had taken out their frustration on a customer and 12 percent had left their jobs.

Addressing the Issues

If you feel that this is significantly affecting the workforce within your organization, consider launching an anonymous survey to gather information. Keep in mind the fact that many employees may be hesitant to cite past instances of workplace negativity for fear of retaliation.

Emphasize the fact that all information will be held in strict confidentiality, and will be utilized to directly address areas of improvement without disclosing anyone’s identity. Leverage insights to gain leadership’s attention, buy in and support for the initiatives that you subsequently put in place to address these issues.

Also, take a proactive approach in as many areas as possible. Keep in mind the fact that changing a workplace culture starts at the top; in other words, leadership must be completely on board and willing to make changes and set an example. After illustrating the significant challenges that your organization is facing and supporting it with industry wide data, provide senior leadership with direct coaching and training.

Not only will they need the tools to minimize negativity within their direct scopes of influence, they will also need to understand how to train and monitor those who report to them.

Hold leadership and management accountable by educating junior and mid-level employees regarding the organization’s policy regarding workplace negativity and reinforcing the fact that, from all employees, including the ‘higher ups’, it is not tolerated.

Develop a cadence for disseminating information regarding workplace negativity and regularly assess the workplace climate through surveys and maintaining accurate records of employee complaints.

Ensure that, along with demonstrating the organization’s commitment to maintaining a positive work environment, that employees understand their role in maintaining it.

Emphasize the direct relationship that positive workplace interactions have on improved productivity and attaining business objectives.

About The Author

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan-Rincon

Jasmine Brennan- Rincon is a Human Resources Professional with a diverse realm of expertise. Throughout her career, she has led people and projects in support of strategic organizational initiatives. Her areas of focus include talent acquisition, employee relations, employment branding, diversity & inclusion, employee engagement and performance management. Jasmine helps clients navigate career paths, build retention strategies and overcome performance management challenges. She offers a wide range of programs and services including resume writing, career development, personal branding, coaching and employee engagement initiatives.


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