Manage Negativity at Work to Achieve Productivity

“Regard every personal interaction as important. Each conversation has the potential for positive or negative impact.”

         -General Stanley A. McChrystal

Every leader is looking for ways to drive productivity.   Technology and process are often the first avenues of interest when improving productivity.  But these methods can be costly, and time consuming.  One major (and often ignored) way of driving productivity is by squashing workplace negativity.  A 2008 CPP Report on Workplace Conflict found that workers spent 2.8 hours per day dealing with conflict.  There is no doubt this time reduces productivity and your bottom line.  The following three steps will help you squash negativity, and boost productivity in your office.

1:  Address the Situation

In psychology there is a concept known as experiential avoidance.  It simply means that we have a tendency to avoid the hard things (such as addressing workplace negativity).  Allowing negativity to live on unaddressed only worsens the problem eventually becoming toxic to even your highest performers.  Addressing a negative situation not only shows that you care, but also prevents it from interrupting productive associates.

2:  Be Timely

Addressing negativity 3 weeks after it occurs is going to be significantly less impactful than addressing it shortly after the situation occurs.  Addressing negativity immediately provides 3 benefits.

  • Shows the value of open communication – continuous improvement also applies to culture.
  • Stops the spread – rumor mills usually exacerbate problems.
  • Saves you time – fixing an entire culture of negativity is harder than fixing a negative occurrence.

It is not unusual for conflicts to escalate, rather than being swiftly resolved. Nine out of ten employees (89%) have experienced a workplace conflict that escalated.”

          -CPP Report on Workplace Conflict

3:  Be Preemptive

Identifying potential conflicts and negative situations before they occur is not only the best method, but perhaps the easiest way to manage negativity.  Acting in a predictive state sounds difficult on the surface, but it’s easily overcome with experience.  As a leader you know your staff better than anyone, and you know their triggers.  Use this experience and knowledge to properly implement change management when attacking negativity.  Take your time, understand the impact of your decisions, and be prepared to address them in a way that softens or eliminates conflict.  For more tips on change management check out our last blog post – 4 steps to managing successful change