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INSIGHT

Lighten up the office for increased productivity

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

Let’s face it, work is not always fun. As they say, “that’s why they call it work.”

But there is a point where a manager may need to draw a line. Although the problem can take many forms, the issues can often be grouped under the heading of “negativity.”

An “office complainer” is one example you may know. There are also constant critics, stealth attackers or what I call “snipers,” gossips, bullies, and just plain pessimists. There are other examples, but you get the idea. These are folks who tend to focus on what’s wrong and they want everyone else to know about it.

Much of this is simply human nature, and seeing things that need fixing is not entirely bad. But at some point excessive negativity needs to be recognized and dealt with or there’s a good chance it will decrease office morale and drag down your workplace mood and productivity. And more often than not, the sooner you address it, the easier it will be and the more effective your efforts will be.

A big reason is that negativity is literally contagious. Psychologists have actually pinpointed what they call “emotional contagion,” the tendency for two individuals in proximity to emotionally converge. Although the vehicle is psychological rather than physical, it’s a lot like the spreading of a flu virus around the office. One person comes in sick and before you know it, the entire office is down with the flu.

This isn’t a small thing, either. Office negativity can bring serious costs in the workplace. Just a few of the issues can involve reduced motivation, absenteeism lower productivity, and even higher turnover.

The good news is that contagion works for positive energy as well. Promoting optimism, stressing the positive and emphasizing successes are a good way to counter any bad vibes someone else is trying to spread. It may sound corny, but keeping things in the office on the bright side is more than just a style.

In truly serious cases, this may take a big effort and you may have to sit down and talk to someone who is chronically negative. If at all possible, don’t add to their negativity by adding some of your own with an ill-considered attempt to correct them. Simply pointing out more positive alternatives will often suffice. Don’t make this meeting public, but use a time or location where you can speak candidly and not put them on the spot. A good first step is to ask them to “help me with a problem.” In many cases, individuals who are negative may not realize it, or may not realize the impact. If they are naturally talkative, converting them from a negative to a positive talker can reap extra benefits.

You may also need to hold a staff meeting. You might couch the agenda in terms of professional standards at the workplace or a similar, indirect topic. This can help introduce a difficult topic as well as reduce individual personality issues.

The best place to start is with yourself. Modeling the behavior you want is always a good plan, and in this case it is doubly effective because it begins establishing a positive environment.

Most of all, don’t ignore the warning signs of a negative office environment. It can cost your organization and, ultimately, a positive and productive workplace can in fact be fun.


Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.

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