By Jerry Langdon, Gannett News Service
Negativity in the workplace must be identified — and solved — if a business is to operate efficiently, according to Gary S. Topchik, author of Managing Workplace Negativity, published this winter.
He lists a variety of personalities that have to be confronted. Among them:
— Locomotives: They steam-roll over people. They are angry and hostile and take out their frustrations on others. Solution: Don’t take it! Tell them how their behavior affects your work, how it makes you feel, and that you need to be communicated to differently. Be assertive.
— Perfectionists: If something isn’t perfect, perfectionists become negative. Their standards aren’t realistic, and even excellent work that is praised by others is unacceptable to the perfectionist. Solution: Don’t take their statements seriously. They are expressing their own inadequacies, not yours. Try to work with them so that they can set realistic expectations for themselves and others.
— Resisters: Any change can cause negativity. Resisters usually don’t openly express their opposition to change. They do it more subtly — saying they think change is good, but then don’t implement change. Extremists may even sabotage if they find a particular change exceptionally threatening. Solution: Try to gradually involve these people in the change. If they are part of the process or come up with some implementing ideas themselves, their resistance may decrease.
— Not-My-Jobbers: These people express their negatively by refusing to do any task, no matter how simple, if they decide it is not part of their job responsibilities. It is often their way of getting back at colleagues, managers or the organization because of their unhappiness with how they are being treated. Solution: Find training and development opportunities for the Not-My-Jobbers. When they feel they are in a dead-end career road, they lose their enthusiasm for work and try to do as little as possible.
— Rumormongers: They take out their negativity toward work by spreading rumors. Rumormongers sense a loss of control over their environments or other people. Rumors help them regain that control. Solution: Give people in the organization the information and facts they need. Doing so gives them little motivation to listen to the rumormongers.
— Pessimists: Pessimists experience the world as an unpleasant place. They are unhappy with the way things are no matter what you try to do for them. Solution: You won’t be able to change their attitude easily. Start by trying to have them adopt some new specific positive habits to take the place of their existing negative ones.
— Criticizers: They disagree with anything that is said. They like to be right, no matter what. They find problems, never opportunities. Solution: Ask them for examples, evidence or their reasoning for disagreeing. Be persistent and don’t give up.
— Crybabies: When crybabies don’t get their way, they behave like children frown, withdraw, go off on a tirade or cry. Solution: Crybabies need a supportive environment and constant encouragement. Also lower their stress and pressure levels.
— Sacrificers: They come in early and stay late, do whatever you ask them to do. But they will complain about their workload and about difficult employees, customers or bosses. Their negativity is brought out by feeling that their hard work is unappreciated. Solution: Give constant positive feedback on how much their hard work and contributions are appreciated. Giving recognition in front of their colleagues, teammates and boss also is helpful.
— Self-Castigators: They get upset with themselves and become negative. They find fault with their work performance, career progress, socioeconomic status, etc. Solution: Use any strategy that will build their self-esteem.
— Scapegoaters: Scapegoaters shift the blame for their mistakes on others, especially when they are in a negative mood. Solution: Give specific examples of how their errors, mistakes or miscalculations were the problem.
— Eggshells: They are very sensitive, and even the slightest comment, if misconstrued, causes them to crack. Solution: When giving critical (and hopefully constructive) feedback, give it slowly, without making it personal, and be sure they understand your point before you move on.
— Micros: They like to focus on the smallest details or mistakes and forget about the big picture. Solution: Have them get into the habit of evaluating the entire project or assignment. Ask them for the main point, the overall goal, the major problems, the main objectives, and so forth.
Most of us find some aspect of our jobs that require us to modify our preferred behavior. Perhaps you’re more assertive at work than you really feel comfortable with or maybe you’re more ‘inclusive’. The point is that we can and do deal with the demands of the workplace by adopting a ‘work’ personality. Most of us do it fairly effortlessly. We accept that the world of work is not about living within our ‘comfort zone’ all of the time and we all have the ability to step outside of our natural behavioral preferences in order to get something done.