It seems wholly appropriate to publish a piece on workplace negativity on Wednesday — the middle of the week can sometimes feel impossible to get over, especially when negative colleagues are dragging you down. Can you believe there is a scientific reason for why your aggravating colleague acts the way he or she does? Dr. Alexandra Gerbasi explains in this Pint of Science preview post!
Mendeley is proud to be partnering with Pint of Science for the third year running.
As an introduction to the great talks on offer we’re going to be previewing some of the most interesting here on the Mendeley Blog, featuring speakers from across all Pint of Science themes. You can follow along on our blog under the tag PintofScience17 or on Twitter under the hashtag #pint17.
Dealing with Dementors: Handling Negative Workplaces
When people find out that I study negative workplace interactions, I am usually flooded with stories like “This guy I work with Steve is such a jerk. Every time I have to deal with him, I feel like he is sucking out my soul.” It is rare that someone tells me that they work in the best place ever and everything is sunshine and rainbows. This isn’t surprising, given the recent finding that over 50 percent of people experience rude or uncivil behaviour at work on a daily basis. This could lead us to think that we are surrounded by jerks or generally rude people. In that same study, researchers found that less than 5 percent of people are intentionally rude to their colleagues. So, two possible things are going on that small group of people are just going around being horrible to everyone, or the majority of the negative interactions are not intentional, and something else is at the core of those behaviours.
How do people become dementors?
If most people aren’t intentionally jerks, why are they acting that way? Most of the time, it is stress. Again and again, in my research, I see stress as the common cause of the negative behaviours. One common theme I see is people who have been promoted into leadership roles, but do not have the skills to handle the demands. Another common themes are role conflicts, people are constantly being torn in multiple directions and overworked.
What effects do dementors have on the workplace?
Research has also repeatedly shown that negative experiences and interactions are more powerful and involve much more cognitive processing than positive experience, it is no wonder that people are always reflecting on these experiences and individuals. Dealing with dementors reduces individual well-being and increases stress. High performers are likely to leave companies when they have to deal with dementors. Those who can leave are likely to become demotivated and can become dementors themselves. Negative behaviours can spread,
What can you do to manage dementors?
If the dementor is a co-worker, often the easiest thing to do is work around them. People who are consistent dementors become excluded. Building up your social support network is also important, having positive support is essential. If you are the supervisor or manager of a dementor, first, using 360 degree feedback can be useful for the individual, so they can see how their actions are affecting others, simply being aware can make a huge difference. Provide training, if you are dealing with someone who needs skill development, give it to them, and provide the opportunities for them to grow into their role. If the person seems unwilling to change, perhaps they are one of the 5 percent that are intentional uncivil, and it might be time to let them go.