Merge's Blog

Why is negativity so widespread?

Why is negativity so widespread in organizations today?  In my opinion, there are several reasons, but here are two of most common ones I’ve come across in my dialogues with managers and supervisors who are struggling with this very problem.

The first is that it gets attention.  It’s a lot like children “acting out”.  If you have children, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Many times children “act out” because that’s how they get attention.  In their childish minds they figure that any attention is a good thing even if it’s negative.  And unfortunately in many ways negative people can be like that.

The second most common reason negativity is so prevalent is because it elevates some people self-esteem to point out problems.  And think about this for a moment, people who are chronically negative suffer from low self-esteem.   So, the reason negative people behave the way they behave is because they seek to raise their self-esteem!  By the way, I’m not saying this makes their behaviour acceptable, but if you have an understanding of where this all starts, you will be able to deal with it more effectively

These are two reasons why negativity is so prevalent in organizations today, but what are some others?  What have you observed in your workplace?  Do share.


  • Have seen that negativity seems to spread (negative people bog others down). Any tips on how to not let the negativity of others get you down?

  • To answer your question “what have you observed in your workplace” re: Negativity…
    I have observed that negativity is so prevalent in my workplace because first and foremost it is allowed as management chooses not to deal with the issue at hand and tends to generalize these problems.
    It is ususlly certain individuals whom are very controlling and self absorbed whom need full control of everything within the office. To get this control they create a very toxic and negative atmosphere….where by they create issues and then complain about the very issues they have created…thus giving them control of the office environment. This is very frustrating and overwhelming for other staff and management that have to deal with on a continuing basis. It seems in our workplace environment management doesn’t want to single out anyone as not to offend or single out any one person, when this type of behaviour is very offensive and damamging to the workplace environment and makes for an unproductive workplace.

  • Noreen, you are so right! Because we’re human, that means that we’re not immune to the toxicity of negative behavior. Negativity is contagious, and if you’re going to overcome negativity in the workplace, you got to start with yourself. You can’t expect to overcome negativity in others if you’re not beyond it yourself. One specific thing that you can do to avoid getting sucked into negativity vortex yourself is to consciously cultivate a positive approach. Attitude is a choice, and it’s a choice that we make every single day. And if you can’t be positive, then don’t expect to get rid of the negativity in your workplace. Overcoming negativity starts with you. And often that will mean deliberately and consciously holding yourself to a higher standard that you do others, even if you don’t really feel like it!

  • Christine, I sense your frustration, and if it makes you feel any better (it probably won’t :)), you’re not alone! While I don’t have a perfect solution for you, this article I wrote for CGA Magazine’s November/December 2009 issue may give you some food for thought.

    Unfortunately, the scenario you have described means that this organization will be unable to keep its best people. As soon as opportunities arise, the top performers will choose to leave and go to more rewarding and productive work environments.


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