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  • Writer's pictureDr. Neal Nybo

Is Negativity Affecting Your Workplace (Even Remotely)?


If negativity is affecting your workplace, you aren’t alone. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that negativity costs businesses $3 billion a year due to its harmful effects. According to the Applied Psychology department at USC, “Keeping up morale within an organization is critical for maintaining productivity and employee satisfaction.”

That seems like a high level topic, unrelated to what you are dealing with. Most of us dealing with negativity have more down to earth questions like:

  • Is it just me? Am I making too much out of this?

  • What is the tangible impact of workplace negativity?

  • What can I do about it?


Why I Am Talking About Workplace Negativity

I’ve been studying how to apply micro-actions of kindness to negative workplace situations. My writing partner, Nicole Phillips, and I have identified 30 micro-actions, actions so small any of us can do them, that raise positivity. It’s like a candle that instantly eliminates darkness in a dark room when it is lit. Positivity pushes out negativity. It may not happen all at once. And some situations require more work.

The great news is that there are small, micro-actions of kindness that we can do to bring about workplace positivity. I was moved by something the President said in his recent inaugural address. I've modified it slightly:

People around us aren’t changed by examples of our power but by the power of our example.


1. It isn’t just you.

Negativity is one of the most common, and deeply ingrained, obstacles to a healthy work environment.

Paul White from McKnight's Long Term Care News says, "When working with front-line employees, supervisors and mid-level managers in long-term care facilities, a frequent question I hear is: “What can I do to create more positive interactions in my workplace? People are so negative here!”"

Here is a list of negativity traits from that same article:

Grumbling & Complaining

Blaming others


Sarcasm & Cutting Remarks













Undercutting & Undermining

Physical Aggression

Walking away without answering





Emotional Reactivity



Passive Aggressiveness

So, no, it's not just you. And, you can make a difference.

2. Tangible impact of workplace negativity.

Diminished Performance

According to the Small Business Chronicle, “A negative work environment can lead to diminished performance and poor employee morale. In the long run, it may harm your company's reputation and affect your ability to attract talent.”

Loss of Focus

Lynda Moultry Belcher writes that Loss of Focus occurs “when employees are focused on drama and negativity in the workplace. They are less focused on their jobs. Business responsibilities take a back seat, as your staff deals with negative issues floating around the office.”

Problems With Retention

Belcher says, “Most people don't want to work in a negative environment. They may feel abandoned and stressed when there is constant negativity surrounding them. This leads to a reduced rate of retention, and it may even hinder recruitment.”


There Is Something You Can Do About It.

You may not be able to do everything but you can do something. You can demonstrate positivity and kindness to your direct reports, your peers and your customers. As I said earlier, people aren’t changed by examples of our power but by the power of our example.

A micro-action you can take today

In our book, Workplace Positivity, Nicole Phillips and I describe 30 micro-actions you can take. We give examples, background information, and an exercise worksheet for each micro-action that will get you started.

Here is an excerpt from the book with an easily implemented micro-action.



Start With Personal

Isn’t it interesting how much people want and need to be recognized, valued, and,

yes, “picked” as in “pick me” from the introduction of this book? The power of that

exercise with business leaders is it represents the minimum amount of recognition, a

non-consequential tap on the thumb, to get a person smiling and feeling connected.

It’s the tip of the iceberg.

Kathy Miller Perkins writes, “Show others, through your actions, that you care

about their well-being as well as your own. Interpersonal trust is the bedrock of

healthy work cultures. Always give your employees, colleagues, and coworkers a

reason to believe in you.”

Imagine the power of a heartfelt connection with no ulterior motives to lift a

person’s spirits and banish negativity from the moment. Extend that moment with

the use of the ideas throughout this workbook, and we begin to glimpse the potential

for positive workplaces any of us would love to work in.

In every interaction, start with personal. For example, when you are face to face

with someone first thing Monday morning ask, “How was your weekend?” On the

phone say, “What’s the weather like where you are?” In an email start with, “I hope

you are doing well.” In a text mention, “Your name came to mind this morning.”

By doing this we demonstrate we genuinely care about the other person.

In many ways, we have lost our personal touch. People are busy. Businesses want

to get to the point. We worry about offending someone or crossing a boundary. And,

honestly, we get suspicious of people who are too nice to us. We automatically ask,

“What’s the catch? What do they want from me?”

The key to being successful with this kindness is to remember it is a micro-action.

It is the smallest thing we can do. Basically, we want to be personal without being

intrusive. These are non-intrusive but personal comments and questions that invite

a relationship.

Starting with personal is micro but it leaves a macro impression.

In fact, starting with personal builds trust. Having a personal connection shows

we care. According to Stephen Covey in The Speed of Trust, “Caring gives us more

trust, which leads to better outcomes.”

Starting with personal shows we care, builds trust, and stimulates what scientists

call happy hormones. Not bad.

NICOLE’S PODCAST PERSPECTIVE (In the book, we take turns writing chapters. The other one gives some professional reflection like this.)

The 100th episode of The Kindness Podcast featured Don Carter, a man who went

viral after raising money to send a Popeye’s drive-thru employee to nursing school. I was

excited to dive right in and hear about his experience. My mind was on the mission.

But before I could get out the first question, Don said very sincerely, “Nicole, how are

you doing?” I could tell we weren’t ready to start the interview. He wanted to make sure

we knew where the other was coming from that day before we got down to business. The

interview that followed was one of my favorites because I felt like I was talking to a new

friend. It turns out, I was.

Along with every micro-action, we have created a worksheet to give you a jumpstart on your positivity. Here is the worksheet for Start With Kindness.


Now it’s your turn.

In the comments, tell me your #1 takeaway and how you plan to use it in your workplace?

Want more? Click here for a free excerpt from Workplace Positivity with three micro-actions.

For more about Workplace Positivity, go to

For more about the work I am doing, go to

49 views3 comments


monarul islam
monarul islam
Sep 28, 2021

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Neal Nybo
Neal Nybo
May 19, 2021

Josim, thank you for your response. I am sure you have experienced your share of negativity, even with remote business, during this COVID season.


Md Josim Uddin
Md Josim Uddin
May 18, 2021

Wonderful article. It's very useful. As a home tuition service provider, I really appreciate your post. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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