How Negativity Impacts Employee Performance and Productivity
Researchers at Michigan State University have conducted a study into how pointing out flaws and problems at work can have an impact on an employee’s productivity and performance improvement. The study, the results of which have been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, is the first of its kind which assesses the negative mindset of some employees.
The research, which was conducted by Management Professor Russell Johnson and his co-author and doctoral student Szu-Han Lin, used two field surveys to ask questions to 300 employees from various occupations including retail, manufacturing and healthcare. They studied what effects making positive or negative suggestions and comments about the workplace had on the individual in question.
It was discovered that while suggesting ways to improve how a business runs can have a positive effect on the employee, negative comments highlighting problems in the business can lead to people becoming more defensive and mentally fatigued leading to lower productivity in the long term. Co-author Johnson stated that a fine balance was required between making suggestions for improvement and highlighted problems in the office:
“The moral of this story is not that we want people to stop raising concerns within the company, because that can be extremely beneficial. But constantly focusing on the negative can have a detrimental effect on the individual.”
The reason why employees may be mentally fatigued after highlighting problems at work, according to Johnson, is that they maybe shining the light on other employee’s flaws and shortcomings, leading to strains in workplace relationships. This strain leads to fatigue which in turn means they are less likely to highlight such problems in future and lowering their own productivity in the process.