Consequences of Negativity in the Workplace

Workplace negativity has financial and operational consequences.
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Workplace negativity may result from a lack of job security, departmental conflicts, high stress levels or poor working conditions. Negativity can spread from one employee to the next like a virus. Very quickly, many of a company’s employees may begin to exhibit negative behaviors and actions, which can affect productivity and profitability. Employee negativity may also increase customer complaints and employee turnover and decrease the quality of work.

Customer Complaints

    Workers who constantly criticize others, gripe about everything or are argumentative can poison the workplace atmosphere and negatively influence a company's relationship with its customers. For example, if a customer service representative is rude or condescending to customers, they may issue a formal complaint to management. Because customers can be less forgiving of a bad attitude than a bad product, they may also take their business elsewhere, which can have a major impact on company profits and growth.

Employee Turnover

    Some employees display anger as a means to show power, and they may have tantrums or uncontrollable outbursts in the workplace. Such displays of negativity can drain workplace energy. Worker productivity may drop leading to a financial downturn for the company. In a worst-case scenario, employees may respond to management's willingness to exhibit or tolerate such behavior by leaving the company and seeking a positive work environment elsewhere. Unfortunately, as Ross Blake writes in "Employee Retention: What Employee Turnover Really Costs Your Company," it costs a company $3,500 to replace an employee earning $8 per hour for recruiting, training and other costs.

Low Morale

    Negative employees may distrust management, have poor relationships with other employees and feel powerless. Negativity and low morale may also result from an unchallenging work environment that offers few if any opportunities for advancement. Unfortunately, low morale comes at a high cost. The October 2011 Gallup Wellbeing report, “Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs,” estimated that 71 percent of American workers report being either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" in their work.


    Backstabbers, pot-stirrers and other negative employees can lead to late arrivals, early departures and sick days. The costs can be significant to businesses. Barry Reece writes in "Effective Human Relations: Interpersonal and Organizational Applications" that the $300 billion annual cost of negative workers reported by Gallup International Research and Education Center may actually be an understatement when the expenses of absenteeism and employee turnover are considered.

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