In Defense of Negativity



There’s good reason to not feel so positive these days.

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war in Afghanistan

nuclear threats swine flu

market crash global warming injustice

housing foreclosure crisis

downsizing selfish leaders demanding customers

low sales high unemployment

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Events, attitudes, and circumstances can throw us for a loop.  How we react to these things  can be based on fear, experience, upbringing, our values, understanding, and openness to change.  We can react negatively in spite of our age and all the self-help books we’ve read.

We have good reason.  Negativity is akin to grieving.

Why not be a sourpuss?  You can share with the world your anger by wearing a frown on your face, ignoring people you work with, being snappy with answers to questions, being incredibly aloof, only giving out small tidbits of information but not all the information your coworkers need to do their jobs well…

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What else can you think of?

Perhaps you could also rally resentment against a manager by quietly questioning their whereabouts when absent from the office.  This is especially effective when you know the manager is at a legitimate meeting, but no one else does.   You could undermine the manager’s leadership when they have delegated something by going to that person and asking any series of questions such as:

Why doesn’t he do it?

Does he even know how this is supposed to work?

Or better: “That’s not appropriate.”

One could make a new employee that they resent feel this negativity vibe in a variety of vibrant ways.

  • Perhaps one could make them:
  • Not be a part of a new hiring initiative
  • Feel incredibly unwelcome through the silent treatment
  • Withhold information from them
  • Point out superficial, made-up, or exaggerated faults about them to fellow colleagues.

(Negativity Tip: This last idea is best executed in small huddled groups where upon seeing the new person coming across you in the hallway or break-room, you immediately stop talking and remain silent until the person passes. Hehehe…It’s a blast!)

Denying critical elements that a new employee needs to do their work is also an excellent negativity tool to wield.  Examples of this could be falsifying customer deadlines, withholding an office key, or forgetting to convey important messages.  This type of anger transfer is especially useful in spreading negativity when the new person has nothing to do with why you are angry, hurt, or unappreciated. The effectiveness of this negativity is wonderful because the poor sap never sees it coming and will be completely blindsided by the treatment.

But why go to all that bother?

Wouldn’t all this bad behavior only drain energy from you?  What good could come of it?  If you find that you’re not able to accept new direction or effect change in your workplace positively through collaborative healthy means, perhaps a job change is better for everyone, especially you.

The difficulty in negative behavior is that it rubs off.  Like it or not, we tend to learn and mirror patterns we witness in others.  Negativity is best tackled quickly.

Luckily, good leaders know this too.  They know how to ignore petty negative passive outbursts and when to step in.  They understand that learning the root of the anger will help bring resolution quicker moving everyone forward. Establishing trust and creating an environment where a negative employee can open up and start to describe what is wrong in a one-on-one environment can lead to mutual understanding and positive change in how you work together. Long term everyone benefits, even if this employee chooses to leave the company.

How have you tamed a bad seed?

What tools do you use to help your teammates shine?

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Jennifer Werth runs a
lean process development & training organization.
She can be reched at jennifer
@werthexpertise.com and through her blog.

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6 Responses

  1. Wow, great post at the right time. I am currently involved in a huge issues that has left me completely undermined and left out in the cold. This has happened through no fault of my own (honestly) but purely because the other party wants me out of their way for their own agenda.
    I now have some huge info in my possession that could get them completely removed from the business world if I shared this with the authorities but do I do it as revenge or spite or do I just sit back and allow vengeance to remain with God as it should.
    Allow my frown to turn upside down, and share God’s love all around. Not alway as easy as is says.

    • Bruce, it sounds like you are in a horrible position. Data is always good to keep to cya as prescribed here ( http://smallbusiness.dnb.com/human-resources/workforce-management-conflict-resolution/12301-1.html ) but hopefully you’ll be able to work around and through this passive aggressive type in another way.

  2. However, never, never confuse negativity with an honest communication of bad news. Organizations often ignore bad news to their own detriment. Bad news should be communicated early, and limited to people who need to be involved so that they can adjust their actions to deal with the new reality.

    • too true Brian. Bad news or simply a counter point of view is necessary in making ideas better and moving a company forward.

  3. Excellent post! Not too long ago a coworker asked me how I could be so upbeat all the time. I told her that I behave in a positive way and it has the magic effect of putting me in a better mood. There is something to be said about a smile or a well placed joke. Much like grumpy behavior it is contagious.

    • It is amazing what a smile can do! Even to strangers on the street, one could completely alter someone’s day.

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