It has been a record setting wet winter, and the spring vegetation is particularly lush. This… includes the growth of new weeds, some that I have never seen before. I look outside my window and know it’s time to devote a weekend to weeding. 

A time to clean out those plants that offer little to the garden.

It’s actually quite rewarding once the weeding is complete. I do it every spring, and the whole garden feels renewed, ready to produce flowers of beauty. It’s like spring cleaning, a chance to start fresh.

Organizations often need weeding too. Taking the time and effort to renew the team by cleaning out negativity that keeps teams from peak performance and damages morale. 

But sometimes the roots of negativity go deep. They can’t be simply eliminated with a good trowel.

The first step is understanding how the culture permits and allows negativity to flourish. 

According to Gary S. Topchik, the author of Managing Workplace Negativity, “Negativity is an increasing problem in the workplace, and is often the result of a loss of confidence, control, or community.”

Unfortunately, the negativityoften starts at the top – where managers who are critical, accusatory and model a behavior highlighting the flaws of individuals versus the positive traits.  It becomes a work structure that is focused on individual “heroes,” not the team andwhere it is all about winning and competition among staff.  All these factors contribute to a workplace that evokes negativity and fear.

So as a conscientious leader, how can you diagnose negativity so you can weed it out. Here are some indicators:

·         Are rumors rampant in your office?

·         Do you find people gossiping about others?

·         Do you see cliques emerging in the workplace, with people being left out?

·         Are staff members reluctant to volunteer for new projects or committees?

·         Is there more absenteeism than normal?

·         Are there rumblings about favoritism or being passed over?

These are all signs that it’s time to start some interventions. A well-known HR Consultant, Susan M. Heathfield states, “Whatever the cause of the workplace negativity, you must address the issues. Or like a seemingly dormant volcano, they will boil beneath the surface, and periodically bubble up and overflow to cause fresh damage.”

What do healthy companies and their managers do? Here are 8 keys….

1.       Practice frequent and open dialog with each employee, listening to their concerns and their opinions.

2.       Become more transparent, sharing organizational changes with employees as you learn of them.

3.       Create an organizational structure that is team based rather than an individual based hierarchy.

4.       Include performance reviews and rewards based on group success, not just the individual’s success.

5.       Be courageous and if there is a “bad egg” in the group, recognize they do not fit within your culture and create a path for their exit.

6.       Host an offsite training session around style differences, and the need to honor and respect the value each one brings to the table. “The sum is greater than any part.”

7.       Don’t forget to look at policies that may be fostering negativity, e.g. work hours, pay, benefits, assignment of overtime hours, comp time, dress codes, office location, flexibility to work offsite etc.

8.       Offer training and development opportunities to ALL staff.  And support staff in career growth,


What are other ways to weed out the negativity?  Please share your ideas.  So we can all have a fresh “garden,” renewed and thriving.