Whether you are a company owner, HR manager, team leader or just an employee, you must have been in a situation that involves negative emotions or harmful actions and you cannot be immune to the effects. Since we cannot avoid it, we need to think of effective ways how to reduce it. The key to dealing with workplace negativity is to recognize the issues that cause it.
The importance of good communication
Equally important is communication between employees themselves. Good vibes in the office can be disrupted when colleagues are disrespectful, rude or intimidating. You can not expect your team to work and be productive if the members are being unprofessional among each other, are spreading rumors and gossips or feeling unwelcome and underestimated by their colleagues.
Believe me, I know how toxic working with people who seem so polite and nice while talking to you can be, but the second you turn your back they become your worst enemies. As a result of that experience, I was really nervous when I started working for Vox Teneo, one year ago. Being an administrative assistant in a company with 30+ employees means working with 30+ different personalities every day. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many friendly faces and to feel the positive energy that floats in the office. To be honest, I needed some time before I put my guard down 😊 The warm atmosphere, amicable surrounding and lots of jokes and smiles made a positive impact on me. I never thought that I can have great communication and collaboration with everyone from the office, colleagues, and management as well.
Remote teams — a challenge of the 21st century
Another matter that can make a negative impact on communication is working with remote teams. Working with remote teams is always a challenging issue indeed. Thanks to the Internet, telecommunications and mobile technology, the remote workplace is a reality today. Since Vox Teneo has offices in 3 different countries on two continents we are part of that reality.
Those face-to-face discussions are not often feasible when working with people from the other side of the world across different time zones. It is much harder to detect any negativity when you don’t have the live interaction when facial expressions and body language cues can show if someone is angry or upset.
Being aware of the above Vox Teneo invests a lot in traveling. Our management, team leaders and team members are constantly traveling to Belgium, Macedonia, and Indonesia so that close connection is achieved. During those travels, employees have the chance to talk in person and work with their colleagues from the other offices. And of course, after hours there are usually gatherings in the local pubs, kafanas or spas, where employees are having fun, getting to know each other better and create lots of positive memories
An excessive workload can lead to negativity
The second cause of employee negativity can be caused by excessive workload which can lead to demotivation. If the employee has a lot of obligations, he/she might feel overwhelmed, exhausted and demoralized, especially when other team members are not as engaged. That can lead to losing interest in their work and becoming unproductive and irritable
I have witnessed situations when people get frustrated because of the numerous tasks they had to do, oppose to others who had fewer obligations, and those situations are a little bit tricky.
Where do I see myself?
Another source of negativity can be found in employees’ anxiety about the future.
An employee who applies for a promotional opportunity and does not get the job can be extremely negative, especially if promotional opportunities are perceived as limited. The management must be sure that they have created a fair promotion system and that employees are aware of what they need to do in order to successfully apply for the next opportunity.
At Vox Teneo, we follow an HR evaluation system that organized the different roles and “role families” to make it clear for the people what is expected from them and what they can expect in return. Nothing is carved on stone though because the human factor and personal approach stay above all in our company. We strive to keep a good balance between being fair and giving freedom to the people to be themselves.
Everybody wants rewards
Employees love to get recognition for their work. So, when insufficient recognition for the level of contribution and effort provided occurs, that will surely produce some negative emotions and possibly undesirable actions.
From an employee point of view, it really means a lot to get a reward or recognition for what you are doing and to know that your work is appreciated. A simple letter of gratitude, tickets for the newest movie or an “employee of the month” cup can boost the motivation, confidence, and positive attitude.
When it comes to multicultural companies, like ours, as a possible source of workplace negativity can be the cultural differences between employees. Cultural diversity has several advantages for companies, but it also leads to some challenges that must be well and carefully managed.
One of the first problems that appear is communication barriers. The language barrier can impact internal and external communication processes. There is a great risk of misunderstanding between the colleagues which can slow down the work process and make it more difficult to create friendly relationships among them.
At first, I had trouble with emoticons and the exclamation mark. Can you believe my surprise when I saw 😛 in an official mail regarding serious topic??? Wooow, but I assumed that my colleague made a mistake and I was waiting for an apology mail, but there wasn’t. Even more, none of the people included in the mail reacted. So, I guessed that it was an honest mistake, until the next I came across the same emoticon. By then, I’ve read Tanya’s article and it was all clear. 😊
The same thing happened with the exclamation mark. I used to imagine that people were yelling in the behind. When the mail starts with: “Hello Katerina!”, what are you supposed to think? I was afraid to read the rest because I thought to myself that I did something wrong…However, I was the one that was wrong and it turned out that it was just a figure of speech. It took me some time to get used to it!
Discrimination is a disease
Cultural clashes can create a very sensitive problem: discrimination. Every one of us wants to feel like he or she is an equal and valuable part of the team. Managers or employees themselves might discriminate other colleagues because of their cultural background, insult them and create a hostile working environment. That behavior must not be accepted. Employees who feel they’re subjects to discrimination may become angry or depressed and may take out their negative feelings on their co-workers, superiors or even on clients. Discrimination generates an atmosphere where employees do not trust each other and do not trust company leadership.
There is nothing wrong when an employee sees and desires to correct such problems. It is up to the management to deal with these problems and issues. It is a matter of company policy and culture not to nurture discrimination and very often the attitude and views of the leaders define whether there will or will not be discrimination.
Companies must find an effective way of dealing with this problem because there are great advantages to diversity in the workplace. Every employee has a unique experience that others can learn from and afterward, they can apply this new-found knowledge into the work process.
Why don’t you #BeTheChange?
In the end, I would like to say that after all, a negative workplace does not depend on the company only, but us, the employees, as well. Our behavior and our actions are critical in creating a friendly and healthy work environment. As individuals, we have the power to make the change, to #BeTheChange. The combat against negativity can start with only one person. Why don’t you be the one? Follow these four simple rules by Ashira Prossack and say goodbye to the negative atmosphere at your office:
1. Educate, don’t criticize
To make an impact and enact change, you have to take action and educate people. Call out negative actions when you see them but remember that constructive criticism isn’t taking action. You need to educate people on how they transform negative behaviors in a positive way. In the same line, be aware of your own behaviors and model positive actions whenever possible.
2. Don’t participate
If you hear someone speaking negatively, don’t participate in the conversation. The harm is that the more people participate in negative commentary, the more it spreads. Chime in with something positive and try to steer the conversation in a more productive direction.
3. Speak up
Take a stand against negativity and make your voice heard. You can’t create change by staying silent. Have difficult conversations. Stand up for what you believe in and push for change.
4. Don’t do it alone
If you observe negative behavior, chances are you’re not the only one witnessing it. Find others who are willing to speak up. One voice makes a ripple, a group of voices creates waves, and many voices produce a tsunami.