IT Employment

What's the biggest culprit behind employee negativity?

There are usually specific internal reasons behind employee negativity. Take our poll to let us know which reason leads the pack.

It seems like lately employee negativity is at an all-time high. Some of this is, understandably, due to the economy and the general unease of the human population because of it. But there are usually specific internal reasons behind employee negativity. Here are five of the most prevalent causes. Which do you think leads the pack? Take our poll below.

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.

96 comments
l_e_cox
l_e_cox

You don't list all the possible causes of this problem. Others include: Employee does not really understand what he is supposed to do or the technology he is working with so wastes a lot of production time and feels bad about it but reactively blames it on someone else. Outside or inside agitators stirring up discontent for crazy reasons or in an attempt to reduce the company's competitive edge or conduct industrial espionage. Hey - sometimes things aren't exactly what they appear to be. We should be more aware of these human factors that can lead employees to turn against GOOD management.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

management are employers employing wankers and not finding out whether their people understand what is required and have the training and skills to do it? Come again????

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

Most of my work is rote and boring. Fix this problem, fix that. I haven't done anything new and challenging in forever.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I note that several folks here seem to have a tendency to think that much of the problem is a management issue. Perhaps some of it is. After all, there are good managers and bad managers, and a whole bunch that fall some where in between. But much of the problem behind having a negative attitude resides within ourselves. It's the old question of, "Is my glass half full, or is it half empty?" And the ONLY person who can truly control how we each as individuals answers that question, is ourselves. Personally, I tend to CHOOSE to view things such that I almost always view that "half a glass" as being half FULL, and am thankful for that. I choose to appreciate what I have, rather than to worry myself about what I do not have. And I'm not the only one. Just yesterday I was on a job site where some extensive remodeling is being done and where we'll be putting in some new, updated systems. There were quite a number of construction worker types around. If you folks are not aware of the fact, this recession has hit construction workers hard, very hard. Anyway, I noted a lot of em with long faces, and chatting amongst themselves about how badly things suck these days. But, here and there was a fellow who I'd chat with for a moment, who was working diligently with a smile on his face. Or who'd at least grin when I asked how things were going and reply, "Not bad, not bad at all." Inevitably, for those types, as we chatted I'd get some comment of the general nature of, "Heck, I've been working short weeks ... BUT at least I've been working. That's better than no work at all." The thing is that one can easily see that those type of fellows; the "Hey, my glass is half full and I'm happy about that." sorts; were happier and more enthusiastic about their current situation and the future than were the others. Personally, I agree with em. I CHOOSE to be the sort who appreciates what I have versus what I don't have. Yeah, like anyone else, I'd like to have more of this, or that, or the other thing. However, in my case I was originally born into a dirt poor family. As in what we'd consider these days to be Third World Poor. That's not the way we looked at it back then amongst my clan. It's likely that since we'd never known any different sort of life, we just considered our circumstance as the norm. But having known and experienced that sort of life, its really hard for me these days to think that the current situation is really all that bad. I've personally taken hits due to the current economy. And have some worries. i.e. My benefits package has been cut, forget bonuses, I lost a big chunk of my savings and retirement plan, etc. But hey, I still have my wife, kids, grand kids, and friends. My health is good. It's summer and the fishing has been good and the vegetable garden is growing like crazy. Etc. Are things harder for me these days? Oh yes. But am I gonna let it get to me? No, not likely. Just a few days ago I learned that a very long time friend of mine has cancer, a re-occurrence. Prognosis is not good. Add that a few months ago he was laid off from his job permanently, the job went away. And I remember a time in my youth when for a few months all we had to eat was a bit of flour and whatever we could find by hunting or gathering. And since it was winter at the time, the hunting and gathering didn't produce much. I was about 11 years old at the time. And had to keep punching new holes in my belt in order to keep my pants up. Things were pretty grim, and getting grimmer. I, and the whole family, were past the point of feeling real hunger. My father was down and out due to a serious concussion as a result of an accident, and all we could do was wait and hope for his recovery. We couldn't afford medical treatment for him. And then one of my brothers died in my arms as I held him and tried to comfort him. He was 4 years old. Caught infant pneumonia and we had no medicine for him. I also remember another time, a time of fear and bullets flying. I was injured, my blood pumping out at an alarming rate, and I was dragging myself ... it was all I could do ... back towards my teammates with a single thought in mind. I was convinced I was a dead man, had no thought that I'd live, but I desperately wanted to get back to my own people so that they might recover my body and send it back home to my clan. Worse than the thought of death to me was the thought that my spirit might not be able to find its way to the Other Side to rejoin my ancestors. (Maybe a silly thing to anyone reading this, but its part of the belief system I was raised with.) I remember these sorts of things. Can't help it. So when considering how bad things are NOW ... I can not really feel sorry for myself or feel all that negative about things. What I feel when I think about all I still have left is ... I'm glad and happy. I just can't see things right now as being all that darned bad. Just a set back. Nothing more.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

No, it's half-empty. . . . But there's another beer in the Frigidaire... B-) edit: misspelled emoticon :0

KSoniat
KSoniat

An old Engineering joke.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

It is sized adequately to contain accidental overfilling. :-) Good engineers always build in a safety margin.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

from, and what sort of actions the company is prepared to take to 'correct' it. Ignore / sweep it under the rug isn't going to do anything. Buck up or get fired is counter-productive. The last firm that told me if I didn't believe in what management were doing I should leave, got to wave goodbye to the back of my head. Did that fix anything, well let's put it this way, they went bust three months later. All depends on whether you are looking for solutions or excuses, management, me , you, anybody.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

Certainly management can, and often does bear some of the responsibility for excessive employee negativity. But they're rarely solely responsible. AND ... all the best management practices in the world can't cure some people of their negativity.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

and Pavlov them, otherwise life will teach them to be negative, even if it's only how hard it is to get the cellophane off a new DVD. :p

eduramater
eduramater

It's always personal. Always, always, always. I've worked in places that were a breath away from going under, and people stuck by the company and the boss -- because if the boss is a genuine human being, it makes the whole silly trip worthwhile. But if your boss treats you like dreck, it can make an ordinary 40-hour week feel like eternity in the 9th circle of hell. Companies should NEVER forget this. But of course, they do.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

E.G. The company has lost five folks in full time positions in the past two years and has hired no full time replacements. The manager refuses to pay travel expenses for work he/she requested. Does honesty equal negativity? I can state outlandish facts which sound like I'm being negative but personally am toddling along happily as you can't buy entertainment like that!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Much better to tell each what they want to hear, and hope they don't compare notes.

sboverie
sboverie

I voted for insufficient pay and insufficient recognition. The real cause of negativity is how we deal with change. When you start a new job there is a feeling of a "honeymoon" that gives a lift of positive feelings. Change is a reality and how we deal with change affects our outloot. Negativity increases when change is forced on people and they are not given any feedback or allowed any input. Negativity can be mooted if everyone gets to participate in the process of change; sometimes this is called empowerment. If you are forced to increase your productivity because the company is laying off then you will feel more tension and pressure and feel more negative. If managment explains the situation and is willing to listen to alternative ideas and follow those ideas, then there is the feeling of having some control over the changes and less feeling like a victim of change. If company revenue is down and the knee jerk management reaction is to lay off then this adds to the tension in the survivors. If the same management is honest with its employees and allow them to find ways to either improve efficiencies or reduce costs to offset the loss of revenue then there will be less tension and more solidarity.

mckinnej
mckinnej

One thing I haven't seen anyone mention (probably because it doesn't somehow blame management, which is by far the favorite flavor of this discussion) is Bad Apples. Some people will moan and complain about anything and everything to anyone and everyone, except someone that can do something about it. I've had people so bad I swear I could hand out $50 bills and they would complain about me putting them in a higher tax bracket. These people are infectious and contaminate everyone they come in contact with. I've watched people like this pull down the attitudes of a whole department. God forbid they take someone young and impressionable under their wing. They'll ruin the poor soul forever. Unfortunately there is only one solution, show them the door.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

when you don't treat them properly... If you buy one that's already bad, well what did you expect. So how large a percentage of the workforce do you think are 'naturally' negative, compared to how many on occasion display a negative attitude? It didn't get a mention, because it's a self serving management delusion perhaps...

cd003284
cd003284

There is no "most." To have a "most," you need to poll the employees of a particular organization. Meanwhile, the entire industry is in a perfect storm and people at every level from the bottom up to middle management are burning out. We've never been here before - no one has. All the old and usual approaches fail. Time for something new, and each organization has to find out what that is.

rreckard
rreckard

None of the above! Our attitudes are 100% personal choice. We're all under paid, we're all over worked, we all know more than the boss..blah..blah..blah. Be grateful and pat someone else on the back, particularly the guy/gal that was working while you were whining.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

BOLLOCKS! So if I'm treated negatively, I should treat this as a positive, is that what you are saying? Be happy with the pay cut becasue I've still got a crap job. Passed over for promotion in favour of some incompetent brown nose, convince myself I didn't want the job anyway. Look at being laid off as an opportunity to change career tracks. For your information I complain while I'm working keeps the adrenalin flowing. PS wipe your nose....

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

and i think the next time i hear someone say that everything is 100% our "choice" i am going to break their knees & tell them its their "choice" whether they feel bad about it

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If I didn't value it enough to try and fix the bits I don't like, I'd go get another one. Again....

bc
bc

besides the money that none of us seems to have enough of i was hoping something else was keeping you in that mental prison. like meeting the future mrs. or something you don't derive any joy from your work? that really sucks...

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

...ever heard of bills? LOL i would have thought the answer to that question was too obvious to deem the question worthy of being asked... but then i forgot, some people were born in buckingham palace ;-) LOL

bc
bc

i just got new knees. for the people that disagree this negative feeling is not a choice can you explain to me why you would subject yourself to this type of environment? do you enjoy feeling crabby all the time or are you some kind of glutton for punishment? I understand that the powers that be can create toxic and oppressing work environments, but what keeps you there?

jslarochelle
jslarochelle

...monkey psychology used as motivational techniques. The list goes on. Very often, negative people are correct in their evaluation. I often don't agree with their attitude though. Criticism has to be constructive and one has to know when to simply shut up. In my experience management has often made this very difficult. Maybe there is an incompatibility between people trained in scientific reasoning and management. I think management needs to adjust when working with scientific personnel, drop the psychology 101 and try to be coherent and logical.

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

i have worked for way more people than most ever will... largely just because the nature of the work i was doing was seasonal or casual or something of that nature... and i agree that there is an attitude amongst many managers & team leaders of stupid half baked BS they read in a book which isnt even their own ideas anyway, and it just becomes mind blowingly frustrating to have to be subservient to someone who treats you like crap & doesnt even have their own opinions.. they are just following some kind of paradigm, policy or procedure regardless of whether it makes any sense at all. i agree with what you say "very often negative people are correct in their evaluation"... in fact its part of the problem that we even call them "negative people" ... why is it negative to point out a REAL problem? ...i would have thought that it was a positive thing to do... but in todays world too many people are shallow & superficial and they dont look past the fact that someone is upset to find out WHY they are upset & whether they actually have a point (and the person probably wouldnt be upset in the first place if they werent always being forced to take crap from those above them)... they get caught up in the political correctness of whether the person voiced their complaint in a "nice" way. ...but if they realized the truth of the matter, the fact that this person has put up with such a load of crap for so long & just yelled or said something a bit rude in their way of expressing their frustration IS i think quite nice compared to the option of having them punch their supervisor or manager in the face... which despite being well deserved is for some reason against the law... ...not that i have an opinion on the subject or anything like that ;-P LOL

1bn0
1bn0

"too many people"....."dont look past the fact that someone is upset to find out WHY they are upset & whether they actually have a point (and the person probably wouldnt be upset in the first place if they werent always being forced to take crap from those above them)... " That is exactly what I was referingto in my previous post. The "Bad Attitude" management rule is to threaten the employee that if they don't change their attitude they wil be relieved of there problem through termination. A real manager tries to determine what the problem. 99% of the time it's one of two issues. There is a real problem that needs to be addressed that management is not aware of. Take care of it and the employee will be happy the issue was resolved and that he was listend to and taken seriously by menagement. The employee will continue to make managment aware of problems and management will find their job eaier and work more productive and profitable. or: The empoyee perceives an issue where there is none. Usually becasue the empoyee is unaware of some or all of the factors affecting the cause of their dis-satisfaction. Resolve the employees understanding of the issue and you resolve the attitude. Again "the employee will be happy the issue was resolved and that he was listend to and taken seriously by menagement."

bc
bc

It only takes one negative person to infect the whole lot. People tend to find satisfaction commiserating in small groups. This is beyond gossip and beyond simple chit chat. The level of negativity isn't just fed by environmental conditions (management, economics, job stress). The biggest culprit is standing in the mirror.

subsced
subsced

I totally agree on that. It is not always the management. Everybody has their own personality. I have seen people with a real bad work attitude. Their expectation is high on management but on themself? If I am going to complain about management I should first ask myself if I am doing right.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I have have often seen really bad managers, their expectation is unrealistic on their people, but on themself? .... If I'm going to complain about my people I should first ask myself if I am doing right. This is the real point if it's unreasonable to assign the blame for employee negativity on management, then it's equally unreasonable to just say it's just down to the employee. I still remain firmly unconvinced that an employee showing negative behaviour is doing anything wrong, undesirable certainly. So fix the problem or the symptom?

jkameleon
jkameleon

According to common management practices, the best solution to the said problem is to identify and punish the firstborn cockroach, the first one who found its way into the kitchen and started the whole mess.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

title on here doesn't say manager..... Negativity = management failure, that's it end of story.

bc
bc

It's just me here supporting 200-300 users nationwide. Negative attitudes regardless of what department you're in or who your manager is can only be an issue if you let it. We're all allowed bad days. What I'm saying is that certain people allow themselves to be consumed by negative attitudes become negative people by choice and they have no one to blame but themselves. Could their manager directly or indirectly contribute to this attitude, well yes. But so can the weather, a pebble in your shoe, or stick up your butt. It only becomes a problem if you let it. We all have choices and we all need to own up to them.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You seem to be trying to say I should be more concerned about being negative, than my manager should be. Why?

jck
jck

like a manager :^0

bc
bc

I work a regular work week. I enjoy the privilege of working for a fun company, currently. In the past I have worked for/with a few different a-holes and they are all the same. They are miserable with their lives and bring it to work. they aren't quasi-happy unless someone else is sharing in their misery.

jck
jck

Don't tell you that you have to work all weekend or your job, and therefore everything you owe money against, is in jeopardy. Trust me, management far more easily keeps people repressed, depressed, and downtrodden than any inanimate object or ecosystem. Case in point: my boss at a former job was nicknamed by most of the staff as "the Anti-Christ" :^0

Zithrob
Zithrob

The amount of negativity in an organization is a reflection of the level of trust that exists between the employee and the organization. For working definition, let's say "trust" is the consistency of a non-harmful response. Too many organizations, as reflected in their managers, display inconsistency of behavior. Whether it's a perception of unequal pay for equal work, unequal recognition for approximately equal accomplishement, or extreme shifts in response (silence at one end and yelling (or worse) at the other), if an employee cannot trust the organization, this will lead to anxiety and anger.

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

well said :-) and i think often it comes down to poor communication skills, a lack of ability to see the situation from an employees point of view, AND perhaps a lack of desire to see things from an employees point of view.

kumvinod
kumvinod

Well a lot of factors contribute to employee negativity 1.) Some times it is the politics that takes away the very meaning so people have to focus more on the politics than on the actual work 2.) Other factors such as co-employees are too absurd, stubborn and reluctant that you may find it impossible to work with them.. 3.) You may have a very stupid idiotic manager who hardly understand anything Finally company managers except that you devote your entire life and time to the company ..But as soon as they get into trouble they will kick you out to save their skin

roy.evison
roy.evison

It appears that the 'workload' category has been dropped. Roy.

wuntime
wuntime

I agree w/ the notion that that pay isn?t commensurate with performance especially for us new masters level graduates....essentially theres this expectation for success/compensation accompanied w/ obtaining such a degree status only for you to realize that for many companies, their organization cultures do not necessarily support the same ideas or are as accomodating to these very same priciples

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

We could have told you that. The only thing I'd have guaranteed your masters would do is make you more likely to get an interview than those with no experience and no masters. You need to turn the potential into actual before you can get a role that will get you the pay.

dalmei
dalmei

Seeing the greed of a few who brought companies (and the economy) down by incompetence and lack of scruples for personal gain has definitely caused people to think more about the true motivations of their leaders. Are they really taking care of the company or are they taking care of themselves at the expense of their companies?

jck
jck

most of those factors roll into the lack of confidence in management, whether you fear your boss(es) are "hack and slash" types primarily concerned with meeting fiscal demands from the top, that they can't lead initiatives to positive conclusions, etc.

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