A glance at the newspaper almost any day would suggest that there is a lot of negativity in the workplace. Tanker drivers earning almost twice the national average pay threatening strike action; teachers reacting badly to the reallocation of their 12 weeks holiday each year where some councils wish to introduce more terms; doctors rebelling against NHS reforms designed to give patients a better deal and so on. The evidence is there for all to see almost daily. But even outside the headlines, most workplaces have some levels of negativity, even if it is just a few staff who cause the negative environment, which may soon spread if not dealt with quickly.
Occasional negative responses are one thing, but a pervading invasion of negativity is likely to seriously undermine motivation and morale and lower quality output and productivity. So what can be done to minimise or eliminate negativity? Well quite a lot.
The first rule for management is to treat people as you would like to be treated yourself. This approach encourages respect and, if common standards are adopted throughout the organisation, there is little for people to complain about. The next rule is to encourage all staff in the organisation to contribute to and share in the vision, mission and goals of the organisation. This should make staff feel part of something quite important and will normally focus staff on working well and seeking to improve what they do. The next rule is to communicate regularly and as openly as you possibly can. In my experience most employees would prefer to have regular updates on how the organisation is performing, even if some communications bring bad news. No news tends to be taken suspiciously and rumours abound and negativity breeds. An excellent and very productive method of communicating is via regular team briefings normally held before the workday commences or at its end. The benefit here is that immediate feedback can be obtained on proposed key changes which could vary the change for the better; further explanation can be provided where lack of clarity exists so ensuring everyone is clear; and issues bubbling below the surface can be teased out and addressed.
Then there are some recognition tools which can be used in order to value staff in the organisation which, if used regularly, will help reduce or eliminate negativity. These include advertising all job vacancies so that everyone in the organisation has an opportunity to try for different types of work or promotions; encouraging staff to improve the way work is undertaken as often they know best; providing some freedom to staff to make decisions (avoid micromanagement which can be a huge demotivator); providing training and other developmental opportunities for all staff.
Finally, two reminders which really work. Don’t create special rules in an attempt to reduce negative behaviour from just a few staff and secondly don’t forget to recognise achievement whether in financial or non-financial terms – a ‘thank you’ often works.
Dr Hugh Billot, Group Managing Director, HR GO plc
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