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My workplace is so negative. People are cynical, sarcastic and negative communication seems to be the “norm”. Why is this? Can anything be done to make things more positive?

05Mar 2013

Unfortunately, Kym, there are some work settings which just “ooze” sarcasm and a lack of trust. In many, they’ve tried to communicate recognition, but it has often been done through a formal employee recognition program. This often leads to both a perceived belief of insincerity, as well as an emphasis on performance. When employees do not believe that others are genuine in their communication of appreciation, cynicism and a lack of trust grow.

Many employees have communicated to me their resentment of only being acknowledged for their performance, and especially if the recognition only occurs when they have achieved “above and beyond.” It’s not that people want to be praised all the time, but it is nice to hear a “thanks” or an acknowledgement when they are doing their job. Otherwise, most of the communication is primarily when they make a mistake or aren’t performing in the way desired.

The other problem that comes from a focus on performance is that workers essentially begin to feel like machines. They are only valued when they “produce.” This is many people’s reaction to employee recognition programs based on achievement:  it feels like the employee is being manipulated (praised or given rewards) for the benefit of the company. Is this wrong?  Absolutely not. But if this is as deep as the recognition goes, employees begin to resent it. We all have value above and beyond our performance. We are more than “producers.” We are people. Generally, we like to know that people value us as a person, not just as a work producer.

Yes, it is nice and helpful to acknowledge, recognize and show appreciation for people “doing their job”. Many workers just need to hear a simple “thanks.” But one of the most important ways to get past the negativity is communicate appreciation regularly over a long period of time.

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