Stop Negativity Before It Spreads!

Negativity is not unlike the diseases and infections we deal with on a daily basis in healthcare. Indeed, negativity is a pattern of pessimistic thinking that quickly spreads, causing problems that impact employee morale, motivation, loyalty, creativity, and ultimately your organization's success. Before you know it, negativity can infect the entire staff, wrecking havoc that is hard to repair. So what are healthcare leaders to do? In most cases, the best approach is very similar to how we fight disease and infection: its all about prevention.

Just as we routinely perform assessments to identify risk factors and early problems in our patients health, we must make a conscious effort to applyscreening principles to ensure the health of the workplace under our leadership. When an environmental assessment reveals symptoms of negativity, we shouldact just as promptly as if a physical illness was sweeping through the facility. Heres how you can identify and address the symptoms of negativity so that it doesn't become a full-blown epidemic at your workplace:

The Symptoms:

  • You get a bad vibe on what is not said. Evidence of negativity can be identified through observation of nonverbal communication, such as frowns, lack of eye contact, crossed arms, or the way a person sits, stands, or walks. People constantly communicate without saying a word by their posture and acknowledgment or lack of acknowledgment of others.
  • The person only points out problems. As leaders, we want to know if a problem exists. However, if the same person or people continually point out problems (without offering a solution) chances are they are spreading massive amounts of negativity around the facility.
  • You get an earful of complaints. Negative people are rarely the most popular people in the office. As such, you'll probably hear a lot of formal as well as informal feedback about the person. These complaints can range from a general I just don't like him to He was rude in front of the patient and hisfamily. Be sure to document all of these complaints so that you have solid evidence when you address the issue.

The Treatment:

  • Hold them accountable. The first step to treating negativity is holding the employee accountable for his or her negative actions. Keep the focus on the individual's behavior and not on them as a person.
  • Focus on the facts. Identify specific facts, including examples of negative behavior and its impact. Give the employee time to respond, and include the opportunity to present any legitimate reasons for the behavior of which you were not aware.
  • Provide alternatives. Explain alternate positive actions or behaviors you would like to see, and point out the consequences if those actions or behaviors are not achieved. Ask the employee to offer his or her own suggestions for improvement and guide him or her to come up with a realistic plan.
  • Be clear and honest. Make sure that the employee understands that failure to follow the agreed-upon action plan will result in initiation of the disciplinary process as defined in your personnel policies. Monitor behavior and give positive feedback to acknowledge improvement, or follow the disciplinary process if there is no change for the better.

Remember, negativity can spread like a nasty virus. So, you must do your best to identify and treat it before it gets serious. If you choose to ignoreworkplace negativity, it will most certainly escalate, causing increased employee dissatisfaction and morale. And all of this can ultimately reflect on yourleadership abilities. Bottom line: nip negativity in the bud!

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.
Dr. Hans Selye

ByClint Maun, CPS