Pessimism is highly infectious. Get your anti-negativity shot here, writes Tony Featherstone.
A former colleague was a self-described "devil's advocate" who constantly queried and challenged ideas for the company's greater good. She was recently made redundant.
In truth, her advocacy had deteriorated from well-meaning criticism of corporate ideas, and avoidance of "group-think", to relentless negativity. She became yet another jaded, bitter employee who let negativity and the blocking of ideas become the default impulse position. It was a terrible shame.
I always wondered how her more recent colleagues worked with a perpetually negative person.
We've all been there: colleagues who can't stand the place, believe their talents have been overlooked, constantly moan about the company, think the boss is an idiot and try to recruit other workers to their campaign of negativity. Try as you might, it's hard to ignore or avoid such people and prevent their negativity from infecting you.
What's your view?
Are you forced to work with endlessly negative people?
Does their negativity affect your performance and sense of wellbeing?
How do you work effectively with people who do not have a good word to say about their company or manager or most colleagues?
But there is a point where people have a responsibility to resign if they cannot get past their deep-rooted negativity, and where it is reasonable for employers to get rid of them, for the sake of the organisation and its staff. Yet too many companies tolerate negative people for too long, even though it is organisational performance cancer.
That does not mean staff should always be positive, or incur their employer's wrath. Or that all negativity is bad, or all positivity good, or that a magic switch between the two exists. The ability to challenge ideas in a professional, open-minded way is a crucial precursor to innovation. My concern is being negative at work for negativity's sake, because of personal issues and frustrations.
This is not an easy issue. Some perpetually negative colleagues might, at their core, be good, talented people who once loved their employer. Even former stars.
Perhaps their negativity has come from constant corporate mistakes, broken promises and mismanagement, so that colleagues sympathise with them and hope that they can recover.
Bad managers might find it easier to put disgruntled workers in a box rather than confront their negativity head on. Or they might not realise a worker has such deep-seated negativity because so much of his or her corporate moaning occurs in informal work settings, away from the spotlight.
Relentless negativity might persist because other workers are scared of their colleague's hostility.
I feel sorry for workers who enjoy their job, appreciate their employer, like coming to work each day, and must battle colleagues whose first impulse is to say no to everything.
Or those who eventually succumb to corporate negativity, join forces with disgruntled colleagues, and create their own loop of bitterness and disappointment, and career dejection.
If you are in this situation, consider these five tips:
1. Recognise the difference between challenging ideas in a professional manner and constant negativity based on personal issues and frustrations. If you find yourself seeing only negatives, it's time to leave.
2. Never become a self-appointed devil's advocate. I have yet to see many devil's advocates flourish over long careers. Be open-minded and assess each issue on its merits, not from a start point of finding fault with every idea early in the process.
3. Avoid "gripe sessions". Some disgruntled workers love nothing better than encouraging others to vent their frustration and join the hate club. Sometimes all it takes is a polite: "I don't feel comfortable criticising other people, or the company" to make them back off.
4. Find "positive" champions. That's easier said than done if your immediate boss is in the negativity brigade. But it's amazing how finding positive co-workers who want to do a good job can give you energy and make the corporate haters go away.
5. Report them. Nobody likes dobbing in colleagues. But why should you become less effective or stop enjoying work because of the relentless negativity of others? Good employers identify workers who constantly complain and block change, and do something about it.