Special Issue on: Causes of Negativity In the Workplace

People with negative emotions have a much greater chance of experiencing negative stress and are more likely to experience dissatisfaction with their lives and jobs. The results of negativity may include increased absenteeism and use of medical benefits and, in many cases, can result in lowered productivity.

By learning how to cope with negativity (both from self and others), individuals are more likely to find their life and work more satisfying and productive.

According to the American Management Association, approximately 65 percent of the average company’s business comes from its present satisfied customers.

If an organization has negative customer service employees, these employees are likely to lose customers for the company.

The loss of one customer a day for a year who typically spends $50 per week would cost a company nearly 1/2 million dollars a year. This is only the financial loss. What about the loss of emotional energy, self-confidence, and morale that was wasted in the process?

Some people appear to be born with a genetic predisposition toward negativity, while others appear to become negative as a result of their environment. Psychologists have long argued about the basis of each individual’s personality.

There are those who agree that one’s personality is a combination of our genetic make-up and our life experiences. People who chronically express negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that increase the likelihood of engaging in destructive actions experience this in two ways:

  1. Imposed by others,
  2. Caused by our own thoughts and feelings.

The five major internal sources of negative or difficult behaviour is motivation by needs or values, attitudes, norms, and self-esteem.

Whatever the cause, negativity can become a habitual pattern of thinking, communicating and acting. It can become so ingrained in our lives that we fail to see the goodness in and around us.

If we want to know why someone is negative, we can determine the answer by finding out what motivates him or her. Other peoples’ motivations are unique and may differ from ours. Two types of drives motivate us: needs and values. “Needs motivation” includes our needs for such things as security, love and growth. “Values motivation” is the principles or beliefs we have learned and developed over a lifetime. Values are the “ought” and “should” of life.

Motivation is why people do what they do. In the 1960s, the psychologist Abraham Maslow first described levels of needs. The most basic needs are survival and security. Once these needs are met, nurturance needs (belonging and love) are at the second level. When the first two need levels are satisfied, individuals seek opportunities to grow, develop and achieve in their lives. Individuals who are functioning primarily at the survival level tend to be negative, while those operating at the growth level are more likely to be positively oriented.

The level of your self-esteem or how good you feel about yourself is one of the main factors in determining how people choose to react to a situation or event.

The same event or situation elicits a different reaction from a person in the high and positive level versus someone at the low and negative level.

  • Generally, a good self-concept leads to positive Thinking, and
  • A person is likely to feel eager and excited when given a challenge.

A person with a poor self-concept is more likely to have negative thinking and feelings and respond with angry, fearful behaviours to many situations,which they perceive as threatening

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines attitude as:

“A way of acting, feeling or thinking; one’s disposition, mental set.” In a sense, attitudes are filters through which we view the world.

Negative attitudes prevent others and us from getting what we want in our lives. Negative thinking and feelings often lead to negative actions. Our life experiences and level of self-esteem help determine our attitudes.

Often individuals with poor self-esteem also have negative attitudes about themselves, others, and the world in general.

Those with negative attitudes tend to distort reality and see the world as a place where everyone is going to get in their way. A better knowledge of your current level of self-esteem and your attitudes should help you deal more effectively with negativity.

The last major cause of negativity is related to what are referred to as norms or standards of conduct that are typical for a specific group. For example, if you were raised in a family environment where everyone else was negative, you will tend to be negative. Negativity can become habitual, normal behaviour for a family that is negative most of the time.

There are many causes of negative behaviour. Our needs and values can motivate negative behaviour, as well as our level of self-esteem, attitudes, and norms.

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