Negativity, whether it comes from the front-line workers or from the boss, can poison your work environment. The biggest difference is that a negative employee can be disciplined, relocated or fired, but with the boss, it’s a different story. There is not much you can do but deal with the consequences when it’s the boss creating the negative energy.
It’s difficult to build up the motivation to please a boss that you believe can’t or won’t acknowledge the good you’re doing. Employees feel more like victims instead of empowered workers when the boss is constantly critical and won’t communicate when things are going well. Listening to the negativity all day dampens employee morale and motivation. Worse than that, it leaves you and the rest of the staff feeling anxious and stressed; you never know what’s really going on or whether your jobs are at risk. According to the American Psychological Association, employees who feel a loss of control are less motivated to improve and more anxious about their positions.
A negative boss leaves employees wondering what will happen if they speak up. Fear of retaliation from a critical, negative boss leaves you and your work buddies feeling helpless and defensive. The powerlessness leads to more stress, which ultimately results in people leaving the job, getting sick or having more accidents. Employees may even fantasize about firing the boss, not a good sign for a boss that wants to develop a loyal workforce. According to the "Gallup Business Journal," when employees believe their bosses don’t care about them, they become disengaged and more than half say they would like to fire the boss.
Pass the Negativity
When employees only see the boss as a bully with nothing but negativity toward them, they tend to believe that it’s OK to let their own negative feelings out. Negative attitudes rub off and employees may begin treating each other with the same disrespect they get from the boss. The trickle-down effect is what spreads the poison, until everyone -- from the sales staff meeting customers to the warehouse gals unloading the trucks -- has a bad attitude.
Eventually, people are going to leave. Employees don’t want to stay in a toxic environment that gives them no positive rewards for their efforts other than a paycheck. Eventually, there will be higher turnover at your workplace if the boss doesn’t turn over a positive leaf. Turnover directly affects profits, too. You’ve got to advertise, interview, hire and train new employees, and that takes money – money that could go toward improving the working conditions, rewarding employees and making the company more successful overall.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."