Managing Negativity in the Workplace

Managing Negativity in the Workplace

Many businesses strive to create employee oriented environments to improve employee engagement. Employee engagement can increase when employees enjoy coming into the office, so there is a good reason to be focused on our work environments. Unfortunately, no matter how much effort goes into improvement by owners, managers, and staff, the occasional bout of negativity always seems to creep in. So what do you do to prevent this from becoming a problem in your business?

The first step is to ensure you know how to recognize negativity before it gets out of hand.

Workplace negativity comes in many forms and has a variety of causes. More often than not, negativity begins with one or two employees and then spreads to the rest of the workforce. As an employer, you should be on the lookout for employees who may be contributing to a negativity in your workplace.

If you want to improve your work environment, consider these personalities that are likely to be found in any workplace:

THE OFFICE BULLY: Can have many different personality traits. Overall, this is an individual who’s ego is fed by fear in others and uses this technique to force others to do things their way or put their projects first.

THE CRITICThis individual constantly offers unwanted criticism and looks for flaws in others work to dismantle their credibility. This personality type is eager to criticize others but often refuses to acknowledge their own shortcomings.

THE GOSSIPMuch like in high-school, this individual enjoys spending their time spreading rumors and gossiping about co-workers and about the organization. Destroying a colleague’s reputation, blatant backstabbing and taking credit for other’s work is their overall agenda.

THE MICROMANAGERThis character is driven by the need to be in charge of every situation and constantly interferes with every task. They are never satisfied with others work because they would have gone about it differently and done it better themselves.

THE QUIET ONE: This individual can sometimes appear arrogant or aloof when they are really just shy. They often withdraw from conversations, don’t participate in meetings and are afraid to share their opinions and ideas.

The impact these personality types can have in your organization is not limited to employee morale. These individuals can wreak havoc on productivity and client relationships and could even cause you to lose key personnel.


Once you have identified these individuals, the next step would be to determine the impact they have on your culture, you are now in a position to determine the best way to help these individuals improve unwanted office behaviors, thereby improving your culture.

Below are some of the negative aspects of each of the personalities discussed above and how to address them individually:

THE OFFICE BULLYThis person can not only impact your organization but can also cause lasting psychological damage to your employees. The best way to handle this type of personality is by ensuring you have policies in place to address harassment, including bullying. Any form of inappropriate behavior reported by employees or management should be addressed and resolved immediately.

THE CRITICWhile constructive criticism can be beneficial, constant unwarranted criticism can lead to diminished self-confidence. The best way to deal with this type of personality is to “kill them with kindness,” thereby not reinforcing critical behaviors. If this approach does not work and their behavior impacts other employees you may need to determine if they are a fit for your organization.

THE GOSSIPEvery office has one and unlike the bully, they are often friendly and hard to spot. The problem with gossipers is they are typically unproductive employees who tend to distract people who are trying to get the job done. The best way to deal with them is to ensure they are working throughout the day and not missing deadlines; if they are, it may be time to give them a warning about their behavior.

THE MICROMANAGERThis individual is bad for both your business and your employees. They are disempowering to staff, hinder growth and development and drain ambition.  The best course of action in dealing with this type of personality is to explain to them that employees need room to breathe and find solutions on their own. Pointing out how their behavior affects others can be helpful as well. If the problem persists, you may need to decide if this person is more valuable than your team…micromanagers are one of the leading cause of high turnover.

THE QUIET ONE:  This person is usually easy to spot- they tend to spend their day in their office, rarely socialize with their colleagues and typically do not participate in meetings. While these individuals are not difficult or damaging to the organization, they often confuse others with their seemingly aloof personalities. The best way to handle these individuals is by allowing them time to think/plan prior to meetings, respect their need for space, encourage virtual communication and be their advocate when needed.

The best approach for managing negativity in the workplace is to not let it get started in the first place. Recognizing an employee or employees with difficult personalities and managing them before their behavior begins to affect other staff is key. All it takes is one negative attitude to cause a ripple effect on your organization that lowers morale and has a negative impact on your culture. You alone have the ability to ensure your employees are productive, serving your clients and working in a harmonious team environment.



Article Contributed by Elizabeth Oxendine

Office Supervisor

About MKS&H: McLean, Koehler, Sparks & Hammond (MKS&H) is a professional service firm with offices in Hunt Valley and Frederick. MKS&H helps owners and organizational leaders become more successful by putting complex financial data into truly meaningful context. But deeper than dollars and data, our focus is on developing an understanding of you, your culture and your business goals. This approach enables our clients to achieve their greatest potential.


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MKS&H is committed to providing personalized tax and accounting services while developing a deep understanding of you, your culture, and your business goals. Our full view of financial systems and the people behind them allow us create and evolve the best solution that will help you and your business thrive. The accounting experts and consulting professionals at MKS&H work together to help you achieve the financial results you want.

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