Is your workplace a positive, uplifting place to be, or do you feel your energy levels drop the moment you step through the door?
If employees are constantly complaining or being negative, it can sap the energy and morale of everyone they come into contact with. It’s all too easy for this negativity to become a vicious cycle where everyone feels irritable and discouraged. You may even find that chronic negativity in your workplace leads to higher employee turnover.
Sometimes, of course, negativity can be related to genuine problems; people may well have good reason to complain! All too often, though, it becomes an unintentional — and unfortunate — part of a company’s culture.
If you feel that your workplace is becoming too negative, here are five ways you can approach fixing it.
1. Start With Yourself
Be honest: Do you find yourself complaining a lot at work, perhaps even during training, or adopting a “glass half-empty” attitude much of the time? If you’re facing challenges of your own, maybe you find yourself giving into thoughts like, “I have no idea what I’m doing!”
Even though it can be tough to stay positive when people around you are unrelentingly negative, you’re not going to change anyone else’s attitude unless you can change your own. You might find it helps to try some techniques like:
Visualization: Imagine yourself being confronted by a work problem that would normally elicit a negative response. Then, imagine how you could respond in a positive way.
Keeping a gratitude journal: Write down at least one thing you’re thankful for every day.
2. Tackle Genuine Problems
Are there continual complaints about something that’s actually a problem? While it can be irritating to hear employees complaining about what seems like a minor issue, if something is affecting their work or morale, it’s important to address it.
Even if you can’t make a wholesale change, you might be able to reduce the impact of the problem. For instance, if several people seem to be struggling with a particular process or task, perhaps implementing a collaboration tool or offering additional training will help.
There may also be employees struggling with difficulties such as mental health problems, which could lead to more negative patterns of thinking. Make sure you’re doing what you can to support them.
3. Have a Quiet Word with Negative Employees
Is the negativity in your workplace coming from a small number of employees? Even a handful of people can set a negative tone (or create a toxic workplace), so where possible, tackle the negativity at its source.
You don’t have to be confrontational or give ultimatums; instead, take a collaborative, coaching approach. Find out why people are making negative comments, and encourage them to be more positive in the way they approach and tackle problems. Keep in mind that some people may not even realize they come across as negative; they might think they’re showing their dry sense of humor, for example.
4. Ask Questions That Draw out Positives
In your regular one-on-ones with employees and in team meetings, it’s important to take the lead by focusing on the positives and on specific actions that employees can take to improve any negatives. You can do so by asking the right questions, such as:
- What went well this week?
- What was your biggest win this week?
- How can I help you during the next few days?
- What’s getting in the way of loving what you do?
- How do you want to contribute?
5. Recognize Employees’ Achievements
A great way to help create a positive workplace culture is to recognize employee achievements. A simple “Thank you! I really appreciated your help” or “You did a great job on this presentation; thanks!” will go a long way.
You might also want to consider surprising employees with small treats like donuts in the break room or even gifts like a meal out or a gift card. These tokens of appreciation won’t cost much, but they can make a huge difference to how your employees feel about work.
A negative workplace isn’t good for anyone. It affects productivity and means that employees might move on much sooner than you’d want them to. You might think that negativity is entrenched in your culture, especially if some of it comes from senior leaders. But by taking a proactive approach, you can inject more positivity into your workplace.