Workplace negativity can drag down productivity

There are many different factors – both positive and negative – that can shape how productive a workforce is. While efficiency software and other new technologies can boost staff performance, other issues like negativity among staff members can have a detrimental effect on productivity.

That's according to recent research from the University of Michigan, which has attempted to understand the role giving negative feedback has on staff productivity.

The study looked specifically at the effect that negative feedback has on employee performance, finding that those workers who are constantly providing negative feedback see their performance drop as a result. This can occur even if the negative feedback they are supplying is having a positive impact on organisational performance.

In fact, these individuals that are regularly providing feedback on an organisation are at higher risk of experiencing low productivity and high stress. Providing high levels of feedback, particularly when it is critical, is therefore actually a symptom of stress and mental fatigue.

The solution which the researchers suggested was in finding a new model, where employees are encouraged to focus on providing positive, constructive feedback, rather than negative information. Part of this solution could involve rewarding staff who can solve problems in a productive way.

One of the study's authors, Professor Russell Johnson, highlighted that this negativity can also lead people to provide less feedback over time, ultimately ending the initial organisational benefits.

"The irony of that is, when people are mentally fatigued they're less likely to point out problems anymore," said Prof Johnson.

"In addition, their own work performance suffers, they're less likely to be cooperative and helpful, and they even exhibit deviant behaviours such as being verbally abusive and stealing from the employer."

With so many different factors having an impact on employee performance, the importance of building a productive corporate environment is only going to grow with time. 

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