Managing Workplace Negativity / Edition 1

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The symptoms: increased customer complaints, high turnover, low quality of work, increased absences, loss of morale and motivation, lack of creativity and innovation, loss of loyalty to the organization. The diagnosis: workplace negativity. The cure: Managing Workplace Negativity. Workplace negativity may seem like an intangible problem-but it has very tangible consequences for the companies it afflicts. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that U.S. companies lose $3 billion a year to the effects of negative attitudes and behaviors at work. Managing Workplace Negativity gives managers, team leaders, trainers, and other human resources professionals much-needed help in treating the negativity bug. It will help readers: Identify the 14 types of negative individuals, from the "not-my-jobber" to the "rumor monger" Confront their own negativity Recognize negativity "trigger points" Overcome entrenched, ongoing negativity Deal with group or company-wide negativity problems Create a positive environment that enhances morale and productivity.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814405826
  • Publisher: AMACOM Books
  • Publication date: 12/4/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary S. Topchik (Los Angeles, CA) is the managing partner of SilverStar Enterprises Inc., a consulting firm specializing in management development, organizational change, team building, and executive coaching.

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Read an Excerpt

1. What Is Workplace Negativity? What Are Its Causes? How Does It Show Itself?


Who has not experienced spurts of negativity about changes occurring at work? Who has not become negative when a trusted friend or colleague was let go because of downsizing? Who has not become negative when not given the plum assignment or not placed on the new project team? And who has not been put off by the individual who complains about everything the company does? Everyone has reason to become negative about his or her work or his or her organization from time to time. But when negativity becomes a routine posture for you, your coworkers, and the entire company, it can begin to eat away at performance.

If problems such as the following exist at your company, negativity may be taking a toll:

  • Work is constantly criticized by others
  • Job security is lacking
  • Good work is seldom praised or recognized
  • Individuals work in isolation from others
  • Destructive conflicts exist between departments
  • Supervision is poor
  • Opportunities for advancement or growth are small
  • Top management decisions are not trusted
  • Stress levels are too high or too low
  • Departments are constantly being reorganized
  • Fear of change is high
  • Job fits are poor
  • Ample resources are lacking
  • Working conditions are poor

Workplace negativity is a virus that spreads rapidly from one person to another. An individual either brings the virus to the workplace or catches it there from other individuals or from the organization itself. Sometimes someone has a double dose of the virus-he or she is negative to start out with and thengets another dose of it at work.

Negativity is contagious. It can spread in a matter of minutes, and before anyone realizes what has happened, the entire workplace can be affected. But chicken soup and antibiotics are no cure, because this is not a physical illness. It is an attitude virus that causes negativity in all it touches.

Negativity shows itself when certain thoughts, moods, behaviors, or actions of an individual are communicated in the workplace. When too many of these behaviors are noticed by the negative individual's colleagues, or when their frequency is excessive, they can easily spread.


U.S. companies lose about $3 billion a year to the effects of negativity, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When negativity affects productivity or profitability, your company has a serious problem.

Whether the cause of the negativity is internal (the personality and communication style of the individual), external (inherent in the organizational culture), or a combination of the two, the results can be devastating. The effects of negativity are measurable and can lead to these outcomes:

  • Increased customer complaints
  • Increased error rates and a lessening of work quality
  • Increased turnover
  • Increased absences and lateness
  • Increased personality conflicts
  • Loss of morale and motivation
  • Loss of loyalty to the organization
  • Loss of creativity and innovation
  • Loss of a competitive spirit

Let's look at each effect in depth.


Cheryl, a customer service representative at a large Mercedes dealership ($60 million in sales last year) in Palm Beach, Florida, tends to see the downside of things. Often her negative take on life influences her work performance. When the dealership's clients call to complain about something minor that is wrong with their car, Cheryl becomes negative. She is condescending and sometimes rude. She cannot believe that customers get so upset about something wrong with their $80,000 cars while she makes half of that amount in a year's time. Customers do not like Cheryl's behavior. They complain to management about Cheryl's attitude and threaten to take their business elsewhere. Some have.


Condo Property Management is quite a stressful place to work. It manages more than forty large apartment complexes in New York City. Pressure is intense, and the staff receives little support from management. Work hours are unpredictable and often exceed ten to twelve hours per day. Morale is low, and the staff has a negative attitude. In this negative environment, work quality declines and error rates increase.


Systems Right is one of the many new Internet start-ups in the Silicon Valley. More than 50 percent of its highly-sought-after engineers left during their first year at the company. During exit interviews, the engineers complained that they never had a voice in important decisions that affected their work. They felt a loss of self-esteem and quickly became negative about their work environment. Additionally, the engineers believed that they were oversupervised and soon lost respect for their senior managers.


Elite Industries has an absence and lateness problem. A few of the seventy-five employees are very negative individuals and have begun to spread their negativity virus to other staff. As a result, many employees find the work environment unpleasant and try to avoid it as much as possible. They arrive late, leave early, or call in sick. This forces Elite Industries to pay excessive overtime and to hire temporary employees.


Anderson Paper Supplies is the major employer in the Northwest town in which it is located. Business has not been good, and the past several years have seen some staff cuts. Interpersonal conflicts have developed among staff because the company has let go some high performers and continues to keep some of the poorer performers. Everyone now seems to be critiquing his or her coworkers' value to the company. LOSS OF MORALE AND MOTIVATION

Ken Clarkson is a manager in the marketing department at a beverage retailer in the Atlanta area. He is often very critical of his staff. He puts down their efforts, always finds fault with their performance, rarely tries to assist them, and is very moody. Ken has caused a lot of negativity in the department. Morale is so low that the staff will perform only when threatened.


Profits at Barrington Industries, a computer chip manufacturer, are soaring. Barrington recently entered the Asian and African markets, and profits are up by more than 200 percent. A lot of good this has done the employees. While the salary and compensation packages of the CEO and other top management have quadrupled, the rest of the staff has received only modest gains. Employees wonder why they have been working so hard. They are losing or have lost their loyalty to Barrington. In addition, whenever an executive or even a managerial job becomes available, it is filled by an outsider even though there are qualified in-house candidates. Both of these corporate practices have led to high levels of negativity and diminishing levels of staff loyalty...

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Table of Contents

"1. What Is Workplace Negativity? What Are Its Causes? How Does It Show Itself?

Part I: Individual and Team Negativity

2. The Cast of Negativists

3. 30 Quick Fixes for Overcoming Individual or Team Negativity

4. Dealing with Pervasive Individual or Team Negativity

Part II: Department and Organizational Negativity

5. A Negativity Assessment

6. Reducing Resistance to Change

7. Dealing with Loss of Trust and Loyalty

8. Turning a Negative Culture into a Positive One

Part III: The Three Powers of a Positive Attitude

9. How to Inoculate Yourself and Your Organization from the Negativity Virus"

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