Biting your tongue isn't always an easy response when co-workers, subordinates and managers don't pull their weight. It might be just as difficult to refrain from badmouthing clients who are never satisfied. However, talking negatively at work often leads to increased stress, lower confidence levels and tension between co-workers. Speak up if problems must be addressed, but remember that courtesy and constructive criticism are usually more beneficial than negative communication. You can rise above an ugly work environment by doing your best to create a positive atmosphere.
One of the dangers of negative talk at work is an overriding sense of disloyalty. A negative work environment makes the whole staff feel like they're walking on egg shells, leaving them with the only choice -- to look out for number one. Employees may start to bicker, complain, gossip or backbite out of anger, insecurity or unhappiness about their work demands. As a manager, you may start losing your employees' respect and sense that they aren't loyal to you or the company.
Negative talk leads to fear in the workplace. According to a 2012 article in "Forbes," negative work communication can cause employees to feel threatened by suggestions and ideas. If employees are worried that upper management is dissatisfied with their performance or fear that layoffs are just around the corner, they may start to bicker and complain. They may be afraid that they'll have to accept lower pay, more job responsibilities, a heavier schedule or unfavorable working conditions.
Negative talk is hazardous to a work environment because it leads to decreased productivity. If employees never receive a "thank you" or a "job well done" from their supervisors, they may feel insignificant and start talking negatively about their work demands or the company as a whole. Negative comments and unhappy feelings are distracting, often taking an employee's concentration away from the job. According to a May 2006 employer case study published on the health care education website Prime, praise and recognition have been linked to significant increases in productivity on the job. No one wants to feel insignificant, unappreciated or undervalued.
Spread of Negativity
According to ezine "The Daily Recruiter," negative talk is contagious. A huge danger from negative communication is the likelihood that it will spread throughout the entire company like wildfire. Employees who were content with their job demands are now hearing others gripe and complain, making them wonder if they should join the negative bandwagon.
Negative talk creates a stressful work environment. Employees who lash out at their colleagues upset the balance of normal workplace interactions. Co-workers may try to avoid inconsiderate, loose-tongued employees, making it difficult to complete team projects or group assignments. Negative communication sets the whole workforce on edge, creating a tense and anxiety-producing atmosphere.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.