Tech & Work

What causes employee negativity?


In 2003, global professional services firm Towers Perrin conducted a survey of some U.S. and Canadian companies that identified five elements that largely generate most of the current negativity among their workers. The five elements are:

  • An excessive workload
  • Concerns about management’s ability to lead the company successfully
  • Anxiety about the future security of their job, income and retirement
  • Boredom and lack of challenge in their work, intensifying their frustration with their workload
  • Insufficient recognition for the level of contribution and effort they provide and concerns that pay isn’t commensurate with performance.

Interestingly, when asked, senior HR executives of the same companies admitted to being aware of employee negativity, but cited different reasons for it. Specifically, according to the study, they "underestimated employees’ need to feel connected to and competent in their work, their desire to build competencies and their wish for recognition."

Let's take a poll among the TechRepublic audience. If you had to rate which of the above elements MOST causes negativity in yourself, which would it be?

Thanks for taking our poll!

 

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

42 comments
Jaqui
Jaqui

the more meetings the less competent the management are.

paymankhoda
paymankhoda

The most important thing for me was definitely overlooked, namely "a lack of accountability through out an organization both for management and workers" is the most critical thing for me because that's the one that's most often missing and without it, nothing ever changes.

cynic 53
cynic 53

I have found that, apart from Job Insecurity, the main cause of Employee negativity are patronising attitudes by Senior Managment and forcing loads of unwanted and irrelevant information onto workers. This is a waste of time both for Management and Workers who ought to be at their benches and work-stations earning money for the Company. Where I work they hold far too many Meetings where we are bombarded by Powerpoint Presentations with graphs and charts which most people neither understand nor care about. Attendance at these are supposed to be compulsory but thankfully Management does not require staff to sign in at these Meetings and a sizable minority do not attend or do so only occasionally. Although staff are asked for questions at the end of the Meeting, few ever ask as any questions are sidelined or fobbed off later by an unsatisfactory answer. Of those who do attend there is a very small group who are truly interested, then there are the crawlers and sychophants who want to be seen to be attending by Management no doubt to boost their Promotion prospects, others are press-ganged into attending by their Supervisors and others attend because it is a 30 minute ro 1 hours skive away from their usual place of work where they can sit down, chillout and switch off. Management can either take the old style and traditional Patrician approach and Rule from the Top-down, or be more meaningful in the involvement of Staff in work processes, but to try to compromise between the two styles of Management is doomed to failure and only results in cynicism and negativity.

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

I would say none of the "things" causes negativity. Negativity occurs when people feel there is no hope of things changing. I have worked with people in dreadful situations with a good attitude because everyone acknwoledged the situation and knew what we and management were doing to change it. I have also worked in very stable situations where people were in fear for their jobs, simply because management never discussed the situation and rarely even visited the same wing of the building as the rest of the staff. People can deal with negative situations quite well. What drives negativity is when management fails to acknowledge or out right denies the situation. In the latter case, the only outlet for people's concerns is negativity.

michael.torrey
michael.torrey

In my opinion, the cause behind employee negativity is within the employee. Any employee can change their attitude, and their circumstances, by taking responsibility for their own attitude and conditions and working to improve that which they see as barriers to success and happiness. When we focus on complaining about the negative aspects of a job (and all jobs have them) then we simply invite those aspects to get bigger and bigger in our minds. I invite all employees to watch "The Secret" and start living positively. You are in charge of your life and your experiences; no one else. Focus on the positive aspects of your job (and all jobs have them) and work towards improving that which is not optimum. Realize that your boss and your underlings each have their own issues and lives to worry about, and that it is not their responsibility to make you feel warm and fuzzy. That's your own responsibility. Ask yourself these questions: 1. Have I been grateful to even have a job? 2. Have I brought issues and concerns to those who might be able to correct them, or do I just sit and stew about them? 3. Do I come armed with possible solutions to what I see as problems, or do I just complain and expect others to fix things for me? 4. Have I dealt with my boss from an attitude of willingness or an attitude of resistance? 5. Do I come to work just wanting to make it through the day, or do I come in excited about meeting the challenges and making progress? The sad truth is that many people find it easier to blame others for their misery, and stay miserable, than to take control and responsibility for their own attitudes and conditions. No one is forcing you to have the job you have. If you hate it; quit and find a job you love.

duckboxxer
duckboxxer

The lack of trust and respect in an employee's skill set. This is a very tough skill that technical managers have to learn - and some can't. I've worked for managers that relied on their past technical experiences to judge my work. So what if you programmed in VB years ago, and I'm now working on the first web project for the company. This one manager never believed me that there were a host of differences for web applications. Oh well, those poor clients.

bsnsimo
bsnsimo

The answer is that all of them cause negativity to some extent. Most of these causes stem from a top-down command and control approach to managing people. Big mistake. The solution is rather simple. Stop telling employees what to do. Ask employees what they need to do a better job and then give it to them. Read the essentials (complete with examples) of doing this (the entire easy-to-read book is provided gratis) HERE Best regards, Ben

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's the opposite of, "E. Insufficient recognition for the level of contribution and effort they provide and concerns that pay isn?t commensurate with performance." You've see it. Management continues to employ a lazy or incompetent employee for a variety of reasons. Supervisors too lazy to do the paperwork to support termination. Fear the employee will sue. "Old boy" protectionism. Repeatedly moving the employee from one department to another. I can live with the boss overlooking my results. I can't live with his overlooking someone else's lack of them.

jck
jck

hell...that's modern workplaces for you nowadays... You don't know if your job is secure because management is making up for their inability to lead by cutting budgets to make bottom line look good, as well as asking employees to work longer hours to cut costs and do monotonous tasks over excessively extensive work hours for no extra incentive. I wanna start a company. I need to beg Bill Gates for some of those $3 software packs hahaha.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Broken promises and favouritism. I'm a practice waht you preach sort of guy. Say one thing and do another, you are a lying BS nerchant, there's very few things yiou could pick out that are more negative than that.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

have been boring in the extreme, quite frankly all the options offered contribute to my attitude towards my job. Picking just one as THE most important factor shaping my attitiude toward my work is misleading. A couple of things I would add as factors that influence negativity are: 1) being treated as a child 2) being micro-managed

duckboxxer
duckboxxer

You raise an interesting point about unwanted information. I think the amount of information wanted varies from person to person. I never thought that the information I wanted could be of no interest to someone else. Personally I ask 'why' a lot. I don't want to do something unless I know the full story. Namely because there may be a better way to do it. If the task can't be changed, I at least know the reasons behind doing something in a dictated way.

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

This is well written and sounds real nice. But, it's a fairy tale for sure. If the chief looses a battle, (s)he quickly puts the blame on the braves for not being true warriors. Typical. The worst offender to workplace satisfaction is feeling like no matter what you do or how hard you work, or how long you work, it's for nothing and not serving you or to your company. Because! The managers/bosses want to micro manage everything, hold meetings all the time, and create time tables while all the time they're not doing anything productive or of genuine help to the effort, and it always seems to be the programmer?s fault when it fails. When the whole thing wrecks, they want to blame the mechanic. Too many managers today think they can manage technology without having to know it. The less they know, the more they want to micromanage their employees. They waste their employees time having them explain the mundane over and over and over. The less they know, the more they create bureaucratic processes for their employees to cross all the i's and dot all the t's. It?s called CYA. If you don?t know what your doing, make sure you have a lot of paperwork. There was a time when the programmer was the fill. When things fell short, or mistakes were made, it was the programmer who pulled up their boot straps and worked their asses off the make it all right. I don?t think today?s programmers are made of that cloth, or could they be given the volatile nature of today?s IT environment. We have to get better management! No management is better than bad management.

michael.torrey
michael.torrey

Truth is there's always a choice. If you have decided that it is in your best interests to remain in the job you have, then you can choose to be miserable or choose to make it good. If your boss is unreasonable in her or his demands, tell them that. You are an adult human being; not a slave. In this country you have rights. If your company needs you so much that they are demanding unreasonable extra hours, they are unlikely to fire you for standing up for your rights. Explain (in a reasonable manner) that working too many hours leads to error and inefficiencies and that they'd be better served by hiring more people than by grinding the ones they have into exhaustion. I agree that many middle and upper managment people act like petty tyrants and treat employees like indentured servants. Truth is they can't treat you that way unless you allow them to. Enough people allow them to and they think it's the way it should be. Demand respect and you'll get it. Truth is if you feel you are stuck in a job and have no choice, you are always going to be miserable AND THAT IS YOUR CHOICE! If you take the responsibility for having this job, realize that you WANT this job for the good things it gives you in your life, and feel proud of yourself for putting up with the crap that goes along with it, THEN start imagining and visualizing AND ASKING FOR the things that would make this the perfect job; you will start to shift things in your favor. Your life right now is a result of all the decisions and choices you made in the past. You can start right now to make conscious choices and decisions for a better life in the future. Or you cansit and complain and stay where you are. Your choice.

$dunk$
$dunk$

"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and darn it people like me" "I am surrounded by love" "I have the perfect job for me." "I have a wonderful satisfying job." "Everything is getting better every day." If I just say my positive affirmations enough, then all those things that might give me a negative attitude will go away :)

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

And make sure the decision makers never take the blame. Oh, and if they fail to plan and then expect you to work all weekend to make up for it, do it without complaining. As you find your 60-80 work weeks only give you an average rating performance evaluation, remember that it was all your fault. Then when they set your core hours to be earlier and earlier, tell you when you can take breaks and when you can take lunch, and note that after working 5 hours overtime that you came into work 1 minute late...it was all your fault, you miserable excuse for an employee. No bitterness here. Nope.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

While I agree to some extent with what you have said, the above quote is too often easier said than done. A job that one once loved to death, becomes over time (as noted by an earlier post) a nightmare. By the time the nightmare is realized, some folks are locked in due to the inability to take a salary cut (as just one example) because s/he has kids to feed, house payment to make, college to pay for, etc... Or perhaps by the time the nightmare is realized, one is too close to retirement to be able to leave now while keeping retirement benefits at a level that will actually support the retiree. I would never stay employed at a job I hate, but I have the luxury of a spouse who earns enough to support us both while I search for a new job to love. Not everyone is in the position to be able to change jobs for the reason that they are unhappy in their work. This is particularly true for the uneducated and unskilled worker performing at a minimum wage level, as well as for the single parent. edit typo

daveo2000
daveo2000

It is a long process but does happen some places. We had a developer who worked at about 1/10th the rate of everyone else. He was a plague on morale the other developers would ask how it was that he was still "working" there. It wasn't until a few months later that they found out: we had compiled the necessary documentation and he was let go. Now we get to the other side of it. He didn't believe that he was being let go. He nearly cried and spoke of his wife and kids and how he needed to support them and his bills and the list goes on. The first part helps the morale of the staff. The second part kills the morale of the manager. The "good rating" I got for handling "the problem" didn't make me feel that much better. I felt real cold that night when I went home.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

added that to the list. I worked for entirely too long for one of those.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

or managers who completely mislead others in an attempt to make themselves bigger than they truly are.

JustinF
JustinF

I have had a job where I was always on call. The company thought they owned me because they gave me a mobile phone. I couldn't take sick leave, annual leave, have a weekend without getting calls. It was in the oil & gas service industry where everyone is treated like company property. The last straw was when I got a call while on the beach on Boxing Day, (public holiday), from someone who was actually away on annual leave themselves. I thought it was ludicrous & polished off my resume as soon as I got back home.

gerberb58
gerberb58

Hate it. It is incredible in this day and age of IT professionals that this type of management still exists. As I write is, every item, every move, every hour and every call I make is scrutinized, recorded, met over and picked apart by managers that HAVEN'T a clue as to what I present to them. I guess that makes them look like they are actually doing something when in fact, all they are doing is making EVERYONE unproductive. Idiots, period. When I leave, ( and I will be leaving)they can replace me with a 6 Y.O. I have become a secratary, not an engineer. I have planned my move out of this POS contract job and its off to a real job.

duckboxxer
duckboxxer

Yes, lack of respect and poor management in general are a large chunk of what makes a job horrid, but also the environment as to which you go to every day plays a huge part as well. Having held a number of jobs, I have learned that even if the job/ project/ management sucked, the overall atmosphere really plays into how well you like the job. Having worked at a place where no one spoke to each other unless forced, I really never want to go back to that. Sure I may not get the money/ project/ office I want, but I don't wake up wishing I was throwing up rather than going to work (true story). Happy, social, fun people are much more important.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

thru unrealistic job or salary expectations. Some 'techno-aggressive' employees like to be 'all' for a company. (or try). When the managment is dependant on them, they then demand unreasonable amounts of money, in exchange for holding knowledge (passwords, procedures, source code, etc) hostage. We actually had such a post a while back of someone who was getting unreasonable amounts of overtime and then was unhappy when they cut back the OT, cutting his salary dramatically. And at our company, we also had an employee who wouldn't document the jobs she ran and deleted a bunch of source code upon leaving. But also giving some job functions to others. One person might be able to anything, but except in the smallest companies can't and shouldn't be doing everything. So it works both ways. Some of these employees try to save their position by getting people dependant on them to plug for them. So managment has to be careful and possibly seek counseling sometimes for disgruntled employees before firing or trying to work things out. That said, there is also I'm sure alot of stupid managers and decisions by them. That doesn't justify stupidity by their employees tho.

$dunk$
$dunk$

I agree that broken promises is probably the worst offender. While I understand that some things are out of a manager's control, they shouldn't even imply that they will do something if they might not be able to do it. A close second is not receiving appropriate recognition. Why should a person extend the extra effort if they get the same recognition as those who don't. Another demotivator is being assigned tasks that your manager knows you don't like but (s)he assigns them to you because you are the only one who does a good job of it. Yet another, is being asked how to do something (or provide input to) by your manager and then they expect you to complete the task for them because you know what you're doing better than them. Finally, being asked by your manager why the project is falling behind when the team spends half their days fighting useless fires and doing management's tasks that come up each day.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I worked like crazy, loved the work, and then the company started targeting IT. After every round of layoffs, I was even more stressed about my job, and looking around it looked like I was not really qualified and would probably be unemployed for some time. Finally, after months and months of being constantly stressed, and constantly reminded that my job would be going away, and constantly feeling F***ed by the company, I started not worrying so much. What did I do, I toned down my workload to less than I was used to. I decided not to go out of my way on extras, and not to worry about deadlines that to meet I would have had to work late often, etc.. So, after I started with this attitude, I was less stressed out by the whole thing, but then again, less productive as well. But I guess that is the way the company wants. For me, negativity came from the company constantly targeting IT and remiding everyone to work to full potential to keep your job. After less than a year of it I broke, and afterwards, I only worked to 1/4 of what I had been doing before they decided to do this BS

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

A large number of unhappy employees who exhibit negative attitudes are a victim of their own false perceptions. They feel they are being singled out or used as an example. Communication, or lack of is the biggest reason for these feelings to surface. Making each person feel that they are part of the team and have something to contribute to the team will help to dispell these feelings. Avoiding the usual management pitfalls are tough when the leaders feel they are above it all and therefore not subject to the same rules as the rest of the teams members. Leading by example puts everyone at ease, and also demonstrates to the team that it is indeed a team and all participate equally.

AshishS
AshishS

My favorite is when your boss walks in your office and drops stuff on your desk and says "In your free time".

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

1. Not being included in meetings and then being given a task when I lack all the required information or the big picture to see the purpose of the task. I really don't like having to chase after managers and coworkers to extract information from them. Lack of communication is a big problem and a morale killer in many companies. 2. Being given rediculous deadlines to complete tasks that require some major research time and testing prior to implementation. 3. Being undermined and undervalued by management in everything you do and not being recognized for all of the late hours and weekends spent on work instead of with family.

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

Optimist v Pessimist They put two people into a room filled with horseshit halfway up in the rooms. After a few hours, they visited the pessimist to see how they handled it. They saw him sitting and crying in a corner. They visited the optimist, when they opened the door all they could see was horseshit flying everywhere. They asked, What are you doing? The optimist answered, I know there?s a pony in here somewhere and I?m going to find it. Yessss, we can all be optimistic about our jobs. It lets you take the bullshit a little better!

daveo2000
daveo2000

I think I have heard the line "If you hate it then quit and find a job you love" said most by motivational speakers and people with skill sets (or other situations) that offer them that mobility. It is often a slap in the face to people who simply don't have the choice. There often is a smug edge (intended or not) to people offering that as the solution for everyone's woes. This isn't a new problem either. While many management types will decry the existance of unions (usually siting the Teamsters but categorizing them as all unions), you shouldn't ignore the beginnings of the Molly McQuires. Listen to the song "16 tons" some time and check into the meaning. While you may not owe your life to the company store these days, you aren't that far away with the costs of insurance and other benefits that skyrocket when you leave a job.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I assume you had been telling him in previous reviews that there was a question about his productivity, so it should not have come as a complete surprise. I always make a point to have them sign off on any documentation as it is added to their file. That doesn't indicate they agree with it, just that they've seen it and know they're on the ropes.

JamesRL
JamesRL

NO ONE should think they have a right to overtime. There should always be a policy. Managers should be monitoring OT like a hawk (and my team does a fair amount)and ensuring the company gets value for it. I too have run into unreasonable salary requests, last minute vacation requests and all around crappy employee behaviour. But I know that I have to lead. Managers need to engage and not throw their hands up in the air when those things happen. If the employee didn't do the documentation, the manager should have pushed for it. Its a metric we measure on - all documents need to be published before we count the project complete. People's raises and bonuses are impacted if they don't. Its up to the manager to let the employees know this. From the first day I took this job, my boss was on me to sort out each job function and assign a backup, and now we have it. No one person will put my department under the bus. James

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

My company is full of these demotivators, also. Whether it is lack of planning, lack of requirements, lack of realistic deadlines, being treated as a child, micromanaged, responsibility without resources or authority, the more the company closes their fist, the more good employees slip out of their fingers and into another company. You guys are all over the real problems with IT today, and also acknowledge that it is not going to get any better.

Tech D
Tech D

1.Burn-out / Work/Life Out of Balance 2.Negative Employee relations/environment 3.Lack of joy in work Emotional IQ which is the overall how you handle pressures emotionally, which can fall under your temperment. Some jobs are right for an individual and some you have to grow into in order to stay satified. I found that if I don't manage well I will feel the gravitational pull of negativity, the office politics, SLA constraints, personal life, projects, all takes management and not blame gaming. Knowing oneself can help minimize the gravitational pull of negativity, seeing or feeling it coming and doing whatever it takes to minimize it.

RknRlKid
RknRlKid

My boss does that too. I started translating it into being "better start it right now" !

BlackDiamond
BlackDiamond

Hey, Speaking only for myself. It's people that have very limited technical ability and call in outside resources to fix everything, while making at least $10,000 a year more than those of us that fix almost everything without calling someone to do it for them.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

It's exactly how I feel now. When this happens, it's time to move on.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Nowadays I can afford to give an amployer an FU and I make it quite clear that I'm there to shovel sh*t not eat it. However way back when, I cleaned the shovel with my tongue, if that's what I had to do to put real food on the table at home. Lets face it real recognition at work has currency signs attached to it. If they don't have to pay, they won't. So you move, but you have to have somewhere to move to. If that means relocating, your kids changing schools, no family support... As blokes we just have to eat it, nothing in these circumtances says you can't be really obnoxious to management though, dribble on them is my recomendation , makes you feel better. If you think it's killing your chances of promotion, it's not a pony in the sh*t, it's an ass.

gerberb58
gerberb58

For this temp contract job I have now (soon to move from the hell hole called Michigan to a real job in FL) I pay $800 out of pocket for med and den Ins for my family. It's insane, but more insane not to have it. So literally, it's YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE!!. OUCH!

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