Managing Workplace Negativity

October 6 2010 - Recent research led by Penn State University published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management found that front-line hotel employees who get on badly with their supervisors are more likely to be envious of those with more positive relationships. They are also less likely to help co-workers or to volunteer for additional duties. These employees interact directly with guests and, as a consequence, not only their own careers but the business generally can suffer from such workplace negativity.

John O'Neill, associate professor in the school of hospitality management said:

"People who are less envious often go above and beyond their normal job duties to do things like cover for an employee who has gone home to help a sick family member. Conversely workers who are more envious are less willing to perform these additional duties."

Researchers including Soo Kim (Montclair State University, New Jersey) and Hyun-Min Cho (Culture Contents Center, Republic of Korea) surveyed 233 employees from four full-service hotels concerning their relationships with supervisors and fellow workers. Those whose responses indicated low-quality relationships with supervisors were significantly more likely to envy co-workers. The study findings did not support previous research indicating that gender, age and length of service played important roles in behavior at work. The study found that poor relationships between supervisors and workers accounted for 41 per cent of envious feelings expressed by workers. In turn this significantly predicted uncooperative behavior, envy accounting for 26 per cent of unhelpful behavior of this type.

John O'Neill commented:

"Guests often need hotel workers to go above and beyond their normal job duties, even if it's just making a cup of coffee when the restaurant is closed. Performing these extra duties for guests, in turn, creates guests who are loyal to the hotel." To reduce envy in the workplace, researchers suggest that hotel employers develop formal structures to establish and support relationships between employees and supervisors, using techniques such as employee reviews and open-door management practices.

John O'Neill concluded:

"While it can be a challenge for leaders to establish these relationships, it's in their best interest to have a relationship with each of their employees. It's really about establishing trust and having a dialogue with all of your workers."

Negativity and Blogging

One of the easiest ways for disgruntled employees to turn negativity into a dangerous weapon is to create a weblog or 'blog'. Blogs can be created without any need for technical ability and there are several free providers. Bloggers do not need to understand website coding, register their own domains or pay for hosting. In essence, blogs are personal online journals that are sometimes turned into 'electronic soapboxes' with the option of inviting comments from viewers to whip up more discord. This offers an easy opportunity for causing mischief, if not mayhem.

A survey by the Employment Law Alliance in 2006 found that 5 per cent of American workers maintain a blog - and 16 per cent of bloggers admitted to having posted something negative about an employer, supervisor or colleague. The Employment Law Alliance calculated that in a company with 120 employees, there is likely to be at least one employee making negative blog comments about the organization or its employees.

Despite the potentially harmful effect on employee morale and an organization's reputation, the survey found that only 15 per cent of employers had specific policies about work-related blogging. The Employment Law Alliance considers that employers should have rules on blogging in their employee handbooks, just as most have addressed email and internet use. Employers cannot prevent workers from blogging in their own time, but they can attempt to restrict work-related content and blogging activity during working hours.

The survey found that 62 per cent of U.S. employers with blogging policies prohibited any employer related information - good or bad - being posted on a blog. 60 per cent of surveyed employees believed that employers should have the right to discipline or dismiss employees who posted confidential, damaging or embarrassing information about their employer on their personal blog.

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