We do our best work in environments that promote enthusiasm and motivate us to achieve our objectives and goals. Positive communication is a sign of a positive work environment, while negative communication can quickly derail us. Negative communication in the workplace accounts for decreases in employee performance, enthusiasm and creativity. Illnesses triggered from the resulting stress can further impact the organization through absenteeism. All of these repercussions translate into performance and revenue losses for companies that allow negative communication to continue.
Leading by Example
Organizations can prevent financial losses associated with negative communication by selecting and developing leaders who provide healthy and constructive feedback. Such leaders foster positive behaviors in employees and have the ability build a cohesive workforce. In contrast, a leader with a toxic communication style who publicly degrades employees signals other team members that both the leadership style and the behavior are acceptable. Once a behavior is recognized as acceptable in an organization, it seeps into the corporate culture -- and once any behavior becomes a part of the corporate culture, any attempt to change it becomes a massive undertaking. Leaders really do lead by example.
Workplace Productivity and Accuracy
Workplace productivity relies on the active engagement of employees. Negative communication, whether from superiors or peers, can quickly lead to disengagement. Employees can experience stress from the situation, which can affect their attention to detail and put them at risk for making errors. Employees experiencing negativity tend to focus on how to eliminate or avoid the source of the problem at the expense of actively thinking about their job responsibilities. In business, the result can mean financial losses. In health care, the consequences can be life-threatening.
The culture of a workplace represents its behavioral norms. Positive communication breeds positive outcomes and serves as a source of motivation and creativity. The reverse is also true. Negativity generated by any employee can have a negative effect on the workplace culture. If leaders don't take action to prevent a repeat occurrence, other leaders and employees will see negative behavior as acceptable. Some will even start to exhibit the same behaviors. Organizations cannot afford to allow such behavior to proliferate. Progress toward goals and objectives will stall as attention is directed instead toward addressing conflicts.
The employee on the receiving end of negative communication isn't the only one who will lose focus and feel stress. Anyone who witnesses it experiences it. In extreme cases, employees under stress could encounter health problems that require them to take extended leaves of absence. Workloads must then be redistributed to other colleagues or contract labor. Colleagues taking on the extra load could see their regular work suffer and feel the need to work longer hours, which further costs the company in overtime or even additional absenteeism as those workers start to become affected by stress. Ultimately, companies could face a high degree of employee turnover as employees leave to escape the problem.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.