We've all heard it, “negativity spreads like wildfire” or “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” Most of us realize that a negative persons behavior spreads much more quickly than a person with a positive attitude, but very few people understand the mechanics of the process. Why is this so? How does it work?

The process is quite simple really.

There is one major reason why negativity spreads faster than anything else, one primary reason why when you get the proverbial “one bad apple”, you often wind up with two, than three and so on.

It's simply because negativity tends to go “unchallenged”. We often don't rebut the person who makes a negative statement, even though we may well disagree with it. Why? Because negative people are generally difficult to deal with and we would rather not get into a conversation (or confrontation) with them... so we “let it slide”. We allow them to project their bad attitude on everyone with little or no consequence.

Now, here's the principle that makes this so dangerous: Whatever we hear often enough that goes unchallenged eventually, to some people, will become the truth.

All of natural learning is based on this one simple principle. As children, we blindly, for the most part, believe what are parents tell us. Why? Because what they say goes unchallenged and we begin to interpret everything they say as “fact”, whether it truly is or not. As we get older, the same basic principle applies. If statements go challenged for a long enough period of time, they tend, as time goes by, to be interpreted as the truth.

So, how does this apply to difficult employees? Well, the negative employee says something like “this place is so unfair, they just make up the rules and do what they want, stepping on the all of the little people”. Because no one wants to disagree with this person and risk escalating the situation, the statement goes “unchallenged”. Over time these type of statements continue with no opposing point of view being voiced. It's only a matter of time before some other employees begin to say, “well, there MUST be some truth to it, or someone would dispute it, I mean, no one ever says they're wrong.” And that is the beginning of the rampant spread of negativity in the organization.

Once the negative beliefs slip in, other employees begin to think differently and of course down the road talk, act and perform differently. It is such a subtle process that it is barely noticable, yet it is a process that has a very definate pattern. Thankfully this insidious pattern can be turned around with the right technique.

In my next article I will give the specific techniques on how to confront a difficult employee and challenge their statements without escalating the situation.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Mike Cioppa is one of the most sought after business, management & employee coaches in America.

Dr. Mike has delivered over 1,000 seminars to hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of employees over the past 5 years.