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Reducing Negativism

Clint Maun, CSP

In the world today, there are opportunities to be solution-oriented, focused and move toward positive new outcomes. However, it is also possible to wallow in chronic paralysis, analysis, finger-pointing, blame, problem finding and conflict enhancement. An organization must choose the way it will focus on a daily basis.

Organizations must decide to project a problem-solving, learning culture that continues to deal with issues as they arrive. They must look for opportunities to produce successful outcomes using team-based involvement. The organization can value differing points of view, opinions and even disagreements in efforts toward accomplishing results or it can choose to believe that it is everyone’s right to moan, complain, gripe, whine, snivel, snitch and bring up constant conflictual attitudes. The problem with the second approach is that it leads to morale problems, staff turnover, customer service delivery issues, compliance problems, regulatory hassles and missed reimbursement opportunities.

A negative environment fosters and allows people to believe it is okay to bring up problems any time they wish. If we don’t possess the skills to deal with these individuals we end up making excuses for them. A small group of people can set the tone for the day. In fact, the first ten to fifteen minutes of the start of each day or shift could be miserable. They’ll ensure we can’t accomplish our work, which will fuel negativism and people will feel there is no sense of accomplishment or purpose. These individuals effectively form a process that will grow a group of negative people around them. They help run off good people. They make sure no one is happy or content.

We have found chronic BMG’s (Bellyachers, Moaners and Groaners) can effectively shut down positive experiences in an organization. In fact, we’ve even seen where they’ve taken something as positive as an employee get-together and turn it into a negative by saying. "I’m not going to eat that person’s food", or "I’m not coming to that event if they’re going", or "You set that up at a time that’s not good for me". These Bellyachers, Moaners and Groaners exist for one or two reasons:

  1. They have horrible self-respect problems, do not feel good within their own skin and must assure they have some way to feel better through power, attention or authority.
  2. They have terrible personal accountability problems. These individuals never want to see anything that could shed a bad light on them. They blame or point fingers at other people. Individuals who are BMG’s produce errors and mistakes and are masking them by blaming others. The chronic BMG’s are people who have both problems; self respect and personal accountability problems.

An organization must choose its course of action. It needs a team to do this. Do not have individuals taking on others' bellyaching, moaning and groaning. It is much like an intervention with a person who is out of bounds in their personal life with unacceptable behaviors or actions. The organization or team must decide they’ll confront this individual, but with a group of people. For the organization to move ahead, it might have to decide these BMG’s must "put up or shut up". This process of reducing negativism also includes the possibility of the drastic steps of eliminating negative individuals from the organization. We don’t normally encourage this, but have found that confrontation with those individuals and their problem-seeking behavior will change their behavior only half the time. There is also a chance half of them will go to higher levels of bellyaching or undercover. The organization has to be prepared to act toward individuals who do not change their behavior.

In choosing the course of action, the facility must decide to implement a new policy. This policy should be as tough as any other in the organization. This policy is P=S. What P=S means is, if you’ve got a problem suggest options. From now on, the new methodology of human connectivity in the organization is "you have the right to bring up any problem as long as you’re also willing to be involved in discussions about the solution." You do not have the right to bring up the problem and expect someone else to solve it. We are eliminating bellyaching, moaning, groaning, whining, sniveling, snitching or finger-pointing as a methodology of daily human contact.

If you are used to bringing up problems and putting them on a note under the Administrators’ door, from now on you’re not allowed to do that. You can bring up the problem if you also write a possible solution. We will give you great accolades and recognition for being involved in the solution whether we used your solution or not. What we’re not going to tolerate is people simply leaving notes or messages, pointing fingers at other people, specifically higher level people, and expecting them to solve all the problems.

Some BMG’s will say solving problems is what management is for. That might have been true in the past, in simpler times. It is certainly not true today and we have to change that methodology or belief system. Management also can’t be part of bellyaching, moaning and groaning. Management can’t bring up problems to staff without being willing to discuss solutions. Management can’t walk down the hall and simply point fingers or blame people without stopping to have conversations about solutions. Approach is everything!

If a note is referred to management with a problem on it, management must go back to the individual and talk about the solutions. Management also must be willing to tear up the note and not respond, if the note was snitching on somebody else. People say to us, won’t they be avoiding big problems? Never have we seen a big problem put on a sticky note. We are not trying to deter employees from bringing up problems but rather have them also be involved in what it takes to solve the problems.

The chance to have a small "huddle" to discuss particular issues with solutions has amazing morale inflation for the organization. It allows people to see we’re willing to take on concerns, bring up problems and constructively work on solutions. It also means that the first time you involve individuals in the problem-solving process that they may bring up problems and solutions that are unacceptable. In fact, many times two of the most common solutions brought up are "hire somebody or buy something".

If we agree to work on each opportunity where we have a meeting with a solution-oriented attitude, we can put in place the P=S philosophy. We can also instill the "WWW" philosophy we’ve promoted for years. This sets in motion that we’re going to have a conversation about "What it is we’re going to do by When and Who is going to do it." This promotes the P=S policy.

Once this begins, there will be a steamroller effect in the organization. We are now having connectivity experiences that are positive and solution-oriented. We’ll reduce negativism and experience conflict management, not conflict enhancement. We can have a solution-oriented conversation to determine how much gain we’ve made in this process, how much reduction of BMG behavior there is in the organization and how much the new policy is having an effect on real world situations that happen on a daily basis.

If you’d like more information on how to reduce negativism in your organization click here.