By Jenna Cyprus
Employee engagement is a fickle thing. And while every individual has different needs, preferences and personality traits, widespread negativity is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it kill employee engagement, but it has the potential to tear your company culture apart at the seams.
This is something management professor Russell Johnson and doctoral student Szu-Han Lin recently studied. They published their research findings in the Journal of Applied Psychology and the overall takeaway was that workplace negativity hurts employee engagement, which hampers productivity and erodes businesses from the inside out.
“The moral of this story is not that we want people to stop raising concerns within the company, because that can be extremely beneficial,” said Johnson, who is a faculty member in Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business. “But constantly focusing on the negative can have a detrimental effect on the individual.”
Not only did Johnson and Lin discover that negativity hurts the overall business, but they also found that it has a detrimental impact on the employees themselves, who become less engaged. As Russell points out, “…They’re less likely to be cooperative and helpful, and they even exhibit deviant behaviors such as being verbally abusive and stealing from the employer.
In separate research, Emma Seppala, Ph.D., Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, found that positive work cultures are more productive as a result of having more engaged and loyal employees.
Whereas a lot of businesses purposefully develop high-stress, cut-throat cultures as a way of motivating employees to succeed, it’s usually not a good idea. A select few may thrive, but the majority become disengaged when they don’t feel valued, supported, and respected. And, as Seppala points out, the cost of disengagement is high.
“In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37 percent higher absenteeism, 49 percent more accidents, and 60 percent more errors and defects,” Seppala notes. “In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18 percent lower productivity, 16 percent lower profitability, 37 percent lower job growth, and 65 percent lower share price over time. Importantly, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100 percent more job applications.”
Another unsavory side effect related to employee negativity and disengagement involves customers. When employees are disengaged, they’re much more likely to deliver bad customer service. And according to an American Express study, customers tell an average of 21 people about a bad experience with a brand (compared to just eight when they have a positive experience).
Do you feel like your business has a negativity problem? If so, you aren’t alone. It’s a pervasive issue in today’s business world, but you need to face it head-on. Here are a few suggestions:
Image credit: Pexels
Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer from Renton, WA who is particularly interested in travel, nature, and parenting. Follow her on Twitter.