It’s a rare workplace environment that hasn’t experienced the corrosive effects of chronic negativity. Like a bad mood, negative behavior can spread among departments, even wide spread enough to infect company divisions or regions. It can be practiced by one individual or groups of individuals wanting to belong to something bigger than themselves. In the search for professinal kinship, groups will take issues and brew them until they are as scorched as bad coffee. Conseqeuntly, we coined a term for them, the Brew Crew. Unfortunately, the something ‘bigger’ becomes the shame & blame game or simply gossip-mongering honoring no one. Persistent negativity can be the result of poor management, inadequate shift staffing, lack of employee training, individual health problems, or symptoms of the bully & manipulator personality types.

Many employees that demonstrate negativity are highly productive, continually meeting project deadlines. If you ask one of these folks why they practice this behavior, they will tell you that they are problem solvers, even crusaders for causes within the company. As one crusader told us, “The senior management staff needs to know the shortcomings of all those in the supervisor role here! I’m doing them a favor by documenting all their deficiencies and bringing them to our staff meeting every week!”

Let’s look at two sources of employee negativity and how they come about in work organizations. The first is socio-situational negativity and is caused by personal stressors. These employees find themselves caught in stressful circumstances such as, pending divorces, child or elder care demands, financial scarcity; and, possibly the greater demands of job promotion. The second is iatro-genic negativity. Employees in this second category demonstrate a coping response to frustration, helplessness, and the lack of compensation for their efforts. This poor adaptive response is a direct result of oppressive, unrealistic working demands, and blame & punishment based management methods.

In a recent study, conducted by Towers Perrin and the researchers of Gang & Gang, they surveyed a randomly selected group of 1,100 employees and 300 senior Human Resources executives working for mid-sized & large-sized companies in the United States and Canada. Participants were asked to describe their feelings about their current work. The study captured participants' spontaneous emotional responses to the total work experience. The study determined that the reasons for workplace negativity are these top five:
• An excessive workload
• Concerns about management’s ability to lead the company successfully forward
• Anxiety about the future, particular longer-term jobs, income & retirement security
• Lack of challenge in their work, boredom intensifying the existing frustration about workload
• Insufficient recognition for the level of contribution and effort provided with issues that the salary wasn’t commensurate with performance.
If you think you might be becoming part of a brew crew, ask yourself:
? Are you taking the conversational ‘bait’ to become involved in malicious gossip such as, ‘Have you heard that….’?
? Are you becoming defensive over public attacks on your job performance or individual character? And, how can you stop these attacks without causing animosity, a private conversation with a colleague? Remember that many bullies enjoy having an audience.
? If your company has downsized, how can you engage management to discuss job security, career pathing, and the rebuilding of trust with the remaining employees?
? How can you set the expectations with your staff or colleagues that negativity is inconsistent with the values of the company? How can you challenge their negative behavior without being confrontational and overbearing?
? What self-governing departmental responses can you put in place to counter negative responses such as, “I know you may need to talk about this event; but, we need to discuss the situation in a positive and problem solving context.”
? If a colleague is the crusader with unrealistic solutions, how can you help them look at the disruptiveness of their behavior without just moving the blame? What conversation can you have with them to promote healthy problem solving, not just continuing the complaining?
? If employee recognition needs a boost, what recognition system can you and management create that rewards the outcomes that your people create for your business?
? If an industry newsletter has referenced a problem and cited your company, what actions can you take to quell the unrest and eliminate the rumors spreading through the employees? What other gatherings can you invite the employees to beyond calling a staff meeting such as, a 30 minute coffee Q & A session or a lunch to share the true information regarding the company?
? For an employee that has been fired and is circulating false information about the company, in what environment can you validate the falsehood of that hearsay with the staff? Where will the staff be the most receptive to your discussion, in the break room, an outside patio, the executive conference room, even the company gym?

“It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.” Arthur Balfour

Author's Bio: 

Bradley Morgan is a corporate and ontological coach who served as a hi-tech executive for over 17 years, in companies such as, IBM, Bay Networks, Premysis, and Brocade Communications. Bradley’s credentials include a BS from Georgia Tech, a MS from UCLA, a certificate in gerontology from the University of Boston (CGP); and a Professional Coaching Certification (PCC) through the Newfield Network program. In the telecommunications industry, she developed both domestic and international systems engineering teams for technical expertise and executive level leadership. Bradley is a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), Age4Action Network (A4AN(, the American Society on Aging (ASA), the Northern VA Fall Prevention Coalition (NVFPC); and the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA). Contact Bradley for a free consultation at: