3 Effective Strategies for Reducing Negativity in the Workplace

The harmful effects of workplace negativity cost businesses billions each year. Does your business possess a culture of positivity?

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The harmful effects of workplace negativity cost businesses billions each year. Does your business possess a culture of positivity? Read on to learn how you can create an even more positive workplace mood.  

Companies are forced to contend with a wide array of internal challenges on a day-to-day basis. One common challenge facing businesses is the risk of a negative workplace mood – the overall attitude, enthusiasm, and mindset of a company’s staff, both collectively and as individual employees.  

A pessimistic outlook from any number of your team members can contribute to a few obvious downfalls, such as low office morale or a dip in productivity. But statistics on workplace negativity suggest that there are also some very real costs associated with this type of office environment. 

3 Startling Stats on the Cost of Negativity in the Workplace 

The scope and severity of workplace negativity shouldn’t be understated. Statistics show it has been proven to hinder creativity, communication, teamwork, motivation, and innovation. That’s because negativity is an internal issue that also creates external implications. It can have a ripple effect outward, in turn impacting the profitability of your company.

Here are three hard facts on the cost of negativity in the workplace and the toll it can take on your business: 

  1. Billions of Dollars Lost: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that the harmful effects of workplace negativity cost businesses upwards of $3-billion annually

  2. Poor Customer Relations: According to a study of 14,000 CEOs, managers, and employees conducted by Arizona State University professor Christine Pearson and Georgetown University professor Christine Porath, one-quarter of mistreated employees admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.

  3. An Increase in Toxicity: Negativity is contagious. In fact, people with negative outlooks and attitudes have been shown to devote extra time and energy to the mood, making it perpetually worse over time.  

When it comes to workplace negativity, the data is clear: failing to foster a positive work environment will ultimately result in an unwelcome hit to your bottom line – but reducing negativity in the workplace can bring massive business benefits.  

How Can Your Company Overcome Workplace Negativity? 

It’s of paramount importance that companies get ahead of negativity and nip it in the bud. But there’s a silver lining: there are some effective ways that your company can work to curb negativity. Read on to learn more about how you can:


Create a Culture of Positivity
To bring out the best in your people, you need to put positivity at the core of your company  

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Building a positive work culture can seem like a daunting task, especially for companies already facing issues with negativity and toxicity. And the reality is that creating a culture of positivity won’t necessarily come easy - although, as they say, nothing good does. But reducing negativity in the workplace isn’t just beneficial to organizations tha thave struggles with workplace mood. Creating an even more positive work environment can benefit every business – whether you’re taking it from bad to good, or from good to great. 

Creating a true and effective culture of positivity requires more than a policy of dishing out generic compliments or telling people they do great work at their annual reviews. For a culture of positivity to truly take root, it has to be ingrained in your company and live at the core of everything you do. Here are a few great ways to implement it into your business. 

Start from the Top Down - Positivity should start at the top and trickle down. It’s important for your company’s leadership team to lead by example. These are three things leaders can do to reduce negativity in the workplace: 

1. Avoid Isolationism - Being isolated from your team causes toxicity and negativity in a number of ways. The first is that, if you aren’t truly in touch with your employees, it’s impossible for you to have a clear gauge of the workplace mood in your company, in turn making it harder to improve. The second is that, by being inaccessible to your team, you may actually be causing inefficiency and frustration. Set aside designated meeting times and check-ins with your team and make sure you respond to their emails and phone calls. It’s OK to limit your availability – you have a job to do as well! – but ensure they have enough access to you that they are equipped for success and they don’t have to spend time waiting on you. 

2. Understand You’re Not Infallible – Toxic managers believe they are never wrong and take the mindset that whatever they say goes. To create a positive workplace mood, it’s important for leaders to implement two-way communication and participate in open dialogue with employees. Rather than just saying “no,” take the time to explain your rationale and why you’re giving your response. On the other hand, keep an open mind to new ideas, embrace them when they work, and let your employee know when they’ve offered valuable insight.   

If you’d like to learn more about how to hone your communication skills, check out our Clear Communication training and development program which can help you and your team develop better verbal communication, learn non-verbal communication signals, and communicate more effectively during conflicts and decisions 

3. Don’t Play Favorites - There are few things more frustrating to employees than a boss who plays favorites. While everyone has people they mesh with better, it’s important to ensure you’re remaining unbiased and objective rather than offering undue attention, assigning the most interesting projects, or giving promotions based on who you get along with better. Look at your team objectively, understand their strengths, and work with them accordingly (more to come on this!).  

Outback Team Building and Training offers a wide array of leadership training and development and coaching and consulting programs that help leaders sharpen their skills and become even more effective and impactful.  

Activate a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy - A recent study by Cone Communications found that a staggering 88% of millennials say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues and 83% would be more loyal to a company that supported them in doing so. This makes CSR especially important when you consider that millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. Luckily, there are some cheap, easy, and effective ways you can implement CSR at your office: 
  • Match Employee Donations - To encourage your employees to give back, you can create a program to match employee donations to charitable organizations. You can contribute cents on the dollar, one-for-one, or even contribute double as a show of good faith. It’s a great way to get your team involved and to show that your company it committed to making a difference. 
  • Make Small Loans to Businesses in Developing Countries - The digital age has spawned a ton of new and innovative opportunities for CSR. For example, Kiva is a platform that allows you to provide small business loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations. This way, your company can donate directly to support another business. And with a repayment rate of nearly 97%, you can take your initial investment and reinvest it repeatedly. To get your team involved, have them come together as a group to decide on which businesses to give loans to. 
  • Create a Volunteer Program - Not all CSR initiatives have to come in the form of donations. Businesses can also donate time to great causes by setting up volunteer programs in which their employees can take a set amount of work time and dedicate it to volunteering at a charitable organization. At Outback Team Building and Training, we offer Volunteer Days to our staff. Our team loves them and takes full advantage of the opportunity to go out and do some good. 
  • Adopt Green Practices - You can practice CSR in your business by simply adopting green practices in the office – and it’s a scalable initiative. This can even be something small like swapping out old bulbs for energy-efficient ones or implementing a recycling program. 
  • Do Good as a Group in the Community – Research shows that conducting kind acts for others can actually help people cope with stress and boost their positive emotions. And that’s because kindness and connection are two universal human needs. Here are two ways to do it: 
    • Engage in Random Acts of Kindness - Businesses can harness the power of random acts of kindness to reduce workplace negativity. Whether it’s making meals and handing them out to those in need, coming together to help people cross a busy street, finding an outdoor worker like a park maintenance employee and offering your team’s help in getting their work done, or hitting the streets and helping tourists out with directions, there are a ton of easy ways that you can get out as a team and put a smile on someone’s face. If you’re looking for another way to get your entire team involved in some random acts of kindness, look no further. At Outback Team Building and Training, we offer a fun, engaging, and interactive Random Acts of Kindness team building scavenger hunt that gets your colleagues outdoors, into the community, and doing good deeds to benefit strangers. 
    • Do a Beach or Community Cleanup - Get your team together and go out and do some good in the community by cleaning up a local beach or neighborhood.  

For more corporate CSR ideas, check out our blog post: 15 Creative Volunteer Ideas to Help Your Team Make a Difference. At Outback Team Building and Training, we also offer six philanthropic team building activities designed to reduce workplace negativity and create a positive workplace mood by bringing teams together to collaborate, have fun, and do some good in their community. 

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Share Positivity – Creating a positive working environment requires you to secure your team’s buy-in. At the end of the day, they will ultimately benefit from your business working to reduce workplace negativity, but they also need to be a main driving factor in making it happen. Here are a few ways to encourage your team to share positivity: 

  • Provide Recognition and Distribute It Evenly – According to a study by Towers Perrin, which polled 1,400 staff in mid- and large-sized North American companies, employees stated that insufficient recognition was among the top five causes of workplace negativity. This shows just how important it is to proactively celebrate employees in front of the entire team. At Outback Team Building and Training, we do this in two ways. The first is a gratitude board, where employees are encouraged to write a message about somebody who they are thankful for and to share why. Then, we share these messages in our company-wide meeting to ensure everyone’s great work is being recognized and appreciated. You can consider implementing your own variation to get your team engaged in positivity.  
  • Share Impromptu Positive Reinforcement – Don’t wait for a formal meeting to provide positive reinforcement to people. If you’re impressed with somebody, tell them. If you enjoy working with a member of your team, walk over and say it or send them an email. You’d be surprised how far these small reinforcements will go.  
  • Celebrate Wins – Get together as a team to celebrate company wins. Whether it’s a champagne toast for hitting a sales milestone, or a team dinner for wrapping up a successful project, these celebrations will boost morale, generate positivity, and spur excitement by reminding your team of the impact of their efforts. It’s also a great way to reinforce their commitment to your company. At Outback Team Building and Training, we set quarterly targets across the entire company and, if they’re achieved, we celebrate them with fun team outings. 

Strategically Build Strong Teams
Employees are unique and diverse, but by understanding their similarities and differences, you can build teams that play to each other’s strengths 

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Generally, companies are comprised of a diverse array of team members – people with unique backgrounds, personalities, perspectives, experience, and expertise. This diversity is often among a company’s greatest strengths. It’s what allows them to remain innovative, creative, and on a forward trajectory. But with diverse personalities also comes the inevitable reality that not all team members will see eye to eye at all times. This can result in conflicts which can ultimately be detrimental to a company’s success.  

But by understanding the individuals within a company – their similarities, differences, motivators, irritants – you can predict how people will interact with one another and strategically build the most successful and thriving teams possible. And in doing so, you’ll be able to reduce workplace negativity by producing happier, more positive employees and a more positive workplace mood. Here are three tips to help you do understand your team and play to their strengths. 

1. Get to Know Your Team on a Deeper Level – It goes without saying that you know the members of your team. But the real question is: do you really know the members of your team? There’s a difference. It’s one thing to know their name, their work experience, and a few of their hobbies. But in order to build a team that’s going to be successful and create a positive workplace mood, you need to get a deeper psychological and emotional understanding of the individual members of your team. 

There are a number of tools available to help you do this, including D.I.S.C assessments, StrengthsFinder, Insights Discovery, and Myers-Briggs tests. Each of these assessments will provide insights into peoples’ strengths, weaknesses, personalities, ways of thinking, and communications styles, as well as context as to how they relate and interact with others.  

At Outback Team Building and Training, we utilize D.I.S.C. assessments in two ways. The first is in our interview process. We use assessments in order to get to know potential employees and the potential role is going to be a great fit for them and vice versa. By putting people into roles that play to their strengths, we know they’ll be successful and, in turn, happier at work. The second way we use D.I.S.C. assessments is with our current employees. It gives us great insight into how to adapt to varying styles within our team, in consideration of interpersonal communication, as well as in approaching the orientation and training of new employees. We also use D.I.S.C. as a way of understanding which profile traits may translate to success in certain aspects of our roles so that we can better leverage strength areas and focus attention in certain areas that might not be a natural strength. This allows us to assist with coaching, training, and skill development. D.I.S.C. has proven to be a very helpful source of information in assisting with our hiring and managing of one of our most valued assets: our people!  

To learn more about the D.I.S.C. assessment and its applications, check out our blog post: A Practical Guide to Using D.I.S.C. in the Workplace. 

2. Celebrate and Leverage Team Member Strengths – Once you’ve gotten to know your employees on a deeper level, you’ll be better equipped to leverage their strengths. And this is key because, according to research by Gallup, employees who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged and happier in their jobs.  

Facebook, one of North America’s most sought-after employers, is a big believer in being a strength-based organization. It consistently seeks to identify what employees are truly passionate about and to put them into roles that align with those passions. And while Facebook is a multi-billion-dollar organization, the idea of building strength-based teams is not a multi-billion-dollar initiative. A great way to do this is to put employees with differing strengths on the same team – for example, mixing up creative people with those who are more analytical; action-oriented and fast-paced people with those who are more meticulous and detail-oriented; calm and steady people with those who are more decisive and intense. In this way, diversity breeds dividends.  

3. Bring Colleagues Together Outside the Context of Work – From Monday to Friday, the majority of the conversation between the members of your team is work-related. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. On a fundamental level, every employee at a company is there to work.  

But it’s also crucial to consider the value of knowing each other on a more personal level – and the importance of facilitating time where colleagues can get to know each other outside of the context of work. Doing so helps inspire collaboration, encourages openness and communication, and grows empathy between teammates. Personal relationships remind employees that their colleagues are people with passions, skills, and a life outside of work.  

Whether it’s monthly potlucks, creating a book club that meets biweekly, or holding weekly Friday get-togethers with snacks and cocktails, the key is finding engaging activities where colleagues can put their work away, get together, and get to know each other on a new level. Quarterly team building activities and annual or bi-annual company retreats are also a great way to get people together outside of the office in order to socialize as well as to learn new skills. At Outback Team Building and Training, we host annual company retreats with our entire team. And to keep things fresh and exciting, we choose a new destination and a new set of activities every year.  

To learn more about how to throw amazing team building events and company retreats, check out our downloadable white paper, The Ultimate Guide to Team Building, and our free online guide, Everything You Need to Know About Planning the Ultimate Company Retreat 


Encourage Healthy vs. Unhealthy Negativity
Well-channeled and productive negativity can be beneficial to businesses

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This might seem counter-intuitive, but a little bit of negativity can go a long way towards reducing workplace negativity, building a more positive workplace mood, and, ultimately, a more successful business. It can actually be a catalyst for positive change. But there’s a caveat. This can only happen if the negativity is channeled correctly and then actioned effectively. It’s a delicate balance, but there are a few ways you can encourage healthy negativity in the workplace as opposed to unhealthy negativity. 

Master Conflict Resolution – In any workplace, conflict is simply inevitable. There will always be disagreements and differences of opinion. And as much as might try, you can’t avoid it – and you shouldn’t. When it comes to conflict resolution, there are a few basic tactics you can implement: 

  • Don’t Run from the Conflict – Sweeping issues under the rug will only serve to worsen them over time. When a conflict arises, address it head-on – immediately.  
  • Stay Calm – Thomas Jefferson once said, “Nothing gives one so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled in all circumstances.” While the goal isn’t necessarily to have an advantage over anybody, staying calm does help you think logically and act rationally. Take a deep breath, analyze the issue objectively, and proceed with a relaxed and unagitated mindset. 
  • Listen Intently – In a conflict, it’s always easiest to think about what you plan to say next rather than actually listening to the other person’s perspective. Instead, focus on listening intently first, and then responding accordingly.  
  • Attack the Problem, Not the Person – In a professional conflict, the root issues often aren’t personal. So, don’t make them that way. While you might be frustrated, stay focused on the problem and how it can be solved rather than attacking the person on the other side of the issue. 
  • Present Solutions – It’s imperative to present solutions in a conflict rather than continuing to harp on the problem. Discuss the situation, analyze what can be done, and be proactive in presenting solutions. 

To become a master of conflict resolution, check out our Conflict Resolution training and development program which will help you manage and resolve conflicts with colleagues in a more productive and positive way. Our program focuses on changing the way you treat workplace conflicts, learning the value of taking accountability, recognizing common conflict behaviors, using the conflict initiation model, and finding new ways to manage conflicts. 

Offer Productive Feedback  According to a study by PwC, most employees want feedback, but many feel they don’t get it. In fact, 60% of people surveyed say they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis – a number which increases to 72% for employees under age 30. More than 75% of people believe feedback is valuable, and a staggering 92% agree that negative feedback is effective at improving performance – when delivered appropriately. Yet less than 30% of people say they receive adequate feedback. The numbers don’t lie – providing productive feedback is integral to a happier, more positive, and more productive team. And luckily, giving feedback doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few tips to help you do it.  

  • Get to It Immediately – Providing immediate feedback allows you to address issues while they’re fresh in everyone’s mind and still relevant. This in turn allows the recipient to rectify behaviors immediately rather than adopting it as habit. If you have feedback to provide – whether positive or constructive – don’t wait. Address it right away – ideally within 24 hours. 
  • Be Direct and Specific – Nobody benefits when you beat around the bush. When giving feedback, it’s important to cut to the chase and speak in certain terms. Let the recipient know you have constructive feedback for them, inform them of the topic, and provide your thoughts. Avoid ambiguous terms. For example, don’t say, “I need you to talk more in meetings.” Instead, try saying, “I value your opinions, and I would like to hear you share them at least once in every meeting we have. It will showcase your expertise and help you gain visibility amongst the company’s senior team members.” 
  • Talk with Them, Not at Them – Productive feedback doesn’t stop when you’ve said your piece. That should be just the beginning. There needs to be a subsequent conversation to assess how your team member is feeling. Ask them if they agree with the feedback, if they’re facing any roadblocks, and if they feel they have the tools, resources, or support they require. Most importantly, ask if there’s anything you can do differently in order to help them succeed. Do your best to take their input in stride, and to truly action any insight they may offer.  
  • Provide Support – Once you’ve given your feedback and gotten the recipient’s input on the situation, remind them that these aren’t problems, but rather opportunities for positive change. Let them know you’re available to answer questions and provide guidance as needed. Then, develop an action plan, measurable goals, and timelines to act as a roadmap for them. Doing so will allow them to more easily and effectively action your feedback and measure their progress and results.   
  • Follow Up – The end of the preliminary feedback meeting should not mean the end of the conversation. Check in with your teammate after two weeks of giving feedback to see how they’re progressing in their action plan and if they require any support.  

To learn more about how to give productive and actionable feedback, check out our Performance Management Fundamentals program which will teach you the performance management cycle, how to build performance-driven relationships, how to coach colleagues more effectively, and how to measure performance more accurately. 

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Encourage Open Communication – We know that negativity can be productive when channeled correctly, so it’s important to foster and encourage open communication in the workplace. This way, team members will feel empowered to bring forward challenges, issues, and opportunities for improvement – without feeling like they’re risking getting in trouble. Here’s how you can do it:  

  • Promote Open Dialogue - According to a survey of 100,000 employees conducted by Peter Barron Stark Companies, only 62.8% of employees felt their managers or supervisors sought the opinions and thoughts of their team members. The survey also cited a few key reasons why employees feel this way, including that their managers never ask for input, and that, when opinions are brought forward, their managers often don’t even stop what they’re doing to acknowledge what’s being said. In order to encourage honest feedback, it’s important to be proactive in requesting feedback, and truly focusing on what’s being said. Don’t just sit back and wait for your team to come to you. Ask specific, pointed questions, including:  
    • How they feel about their work experience  
    • If there’s anything they feel could be improved upon 
    • If they’re feeling challenged and fulfilled 
    • If they have the tools and support needed to be successful.  
  • Create a Safe Way for Employees to Communicate – Employee feedback is critical. They offer the most direct and honest insight into what’s working in your business and what’s not. But they often won’t speak up for fear of repercussions or having it backfire on them. It’s important to ensure they feel safe in sharing their thoughts. To facilitate this type of environment, you can consider a few tactics, including:  
    • Proactively promoting an open-door policy with your team by letting them know you’re always available to talk and that you welcome any and all feedback.  
    • If you don’t already have an in-house human resources department, you can consider hiring an HR manager full-time, or bringing in an outside consultant. This way, your employees will feel like they have an impartial and unbiased party who they can go to with feedback.  
    • You can conduct monthly or quarterly anonymous internal surveys to gather input from your team. At Outback Team Building and Training, we conduct two recurring and anonymous surveys with our whole team: 
      • We use Officevibe to conduct bi-weekly surveys on employee engagement, with questions including how our team members perceive the feedback they receive, how they feel about their relationships with teammates and leadership, and if they feel trusted and valued in the organization. We also provide the opportunity for open feedback on the questions asked, and an open forum for anything else that might be on their mind. 
      • Using SurveyMonkey, we ask our team if they would recommend Outback Team Building and Training as a great place to work to their family and friends, and to rank this on a scale of one to 10. If they score the company under a 10 out of 10, we ask them to provide feedback as to how we can improve to ensure it’s a ten.  
  • Show That Feedback is Acted Upon – One of the quickest ways to dampen honest employee feedback is to neglect it. In fact, according to research by Sideways 6, more than one-third of the workforce believes their employers don’t listen to their ideas. So, understanding it isn’t always easy for employees to speak their mind, it’s important to take action and show that you’re listening when they do. Proving to your team that you take their feedback seriously is key in reducing negativity in the workplace. At Outback Team Building and Training, we take feedback very seriously and we ensure that it’s acted upon accordingly. Our leadership team meets weekly to discuss feedback from surveys and responds to anonymous and non-anonymous feedback accordingly. As a result, our staff Net Promoter Score – the ranking our team gives our company with regards to whether they would recommend it to a friend. We maintain a target NPS of 70, which is very high. If we’re hitting that mark, we know we’re doing well. If we’re not hitting that mark, then we know we need to connect with our staff to figure out how we can make it better. 


Learn More About Creating a Positive Workplace Environment

For more information about how Outback Team Building and Training’s team building, training and development, and coaching and consulting programs can help create a more positive workplace environment at your company, just reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants. 

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