How to Combat Negative Energy in the Workplace

TSP • @myTSPnet


We’ve all been there. You walk into the office ready to take on the day, equipped with an upbeat attitude and a long to-do list, only to be confronted with negativity before your first cup of coffee. Few things are as damaging to productivity as negative energy in the office. And the worst part is, it’s contagious.

Negativity stems from many sources — poor communication, unexpected changes in staffing or nature of work, inexperienced management, or even just one disgruntled employee on a mission. Negative energy and low morale can turn even the most solid of cultures into a toxic environment, causing happy, productive employees to leave the company and ultimately impacting the bottom line. According to a Columbia University study, the likelihood of job turnover at an organization with high company culture is just 13.9 percent, whereas the probability of job turnover in low company cultures is 48.4 percent.

So, how can you stop your office from becoming a toxic workplace? No need to burn sage just yet. Ask yourself if this is a new development at your company — if it is, it can likely be remedied by taking a few thoughtful actions.

Think about the source of the negativity. Is it a team that’s overworked and experiencing burnout? A colleague that’s having a hard time finding work-life balance, consequently passing on negative vibes to his or her coworkers? A tough new client? Perhaps it’s just a communication breakdown. A lack of communication can leave employees feeling uninformed and undervalued, leaving them to compensate with office gossip and lower productivity levels.

In fact, an survey found that the top three reasons people dislike their jobs — accounting for 62 percent of responses — were communication related. Turns out, communicating clearly and effectively isn’t always as easy as we think it is. Many toxic workplace environments can be helped simply by creating a clear communications plan with a standard operating procedure and tangible goals.

Once you identify the potential source or sources of negativity, ask yourself, “Is this something that I can change?” Sometimes, the answer to that question is no and the solution may just be out of your control. But, more often than not, there is some way that you can make a positive impact on the situation. Don’t forget to look at your own attitude when you analyze the work environment — could you be contributing to the problem?

Regardless of your position within the company, don’t be afraid to speak up. Whether you’re an intern or a vice president, your perspective matters and can make a difference.

If you’ve found that just one or a handful of employees is the source of the negative energy, you may be able to nip it in the bud with as little as a conversation. If the negativity stems from feeling uninformed or undervalued, some real talk and an actionable improvement plan can make a world of difference. Try taking your colleague out for lunch or coffee. A change of scenery can be helpful when discussing what work related or personal issues they might be facing. It’s okay to relate to them, just don’t become a part of the negativity. Instead, offer solutions. It’s possible that all your colleague needs is to know that someone cares! Once he or she realizes that others are aware of their workplace attitude, you may notice a shift.

If the problem is bigger than a few unhappy employees, enlist the help of company decision makers. It’s likely that they’ve noticed an issue and will appreciate that you are taking initiative. If not, at least you’ve voiced your concern (and it may be time to dust off your résumé). Come to the meeting equipped with solutions and ideas to counteract the negative energy. Employee training programs, one-on-one meetings between management and direct reports, and morale boosters like team outings and happy hours are all great places to start.

Be sure to walk away from the conversation with a plan. What are the next steps and how can you help?

In a toxic workplace, it can be easy to lose sight of what you’re really working toward. Set aside some time to think about your purpose at the company. What goals do you have for yourself and how is this position helping you achieve them? If you’re left feeling less than inspired, it may be time to set some new goals.

Ultimately, you are the one that has the power to choose how you feel about coming to work every day. If you’ve taken the above steps and the negativity in your office is still overwhelming, there are many ways to rise above it. Make sure your work-life balance is intact and find activities outside of the office that make you feel good. Taking time for fitness classes, self-care and time with loved ones will make a positive impact on how you handle negative energy at work.

Don’t underestimate the effect that your positive attitude can have on your entire office. Give compliments when they’re deserved, offer to pitch in with a variety of projects, and share good news and wins. You’ll find that the negative energy may not affect you — or may disappear entirely — if you focus on cultivating positivity.