Practical Application: Overcoming Negative Influences at Work

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Regardless of the employer, negativity in the workplace is a permanent reality. The consequences, however, of negativity do not have to be permanent, especially if the situation is skillfully handled.

Negativity in the Workplace

Attitude is one of the most contagious forms of expression in the world. Good attitudes encourage those around us to step up as well, but negative influences are a workplace cancer that can and will spread until stopped. The tough thing about negative influences is that, while they can never be permanently eradicated, they can be managed in such a way that they do not cause major disruptions in the workplace. Review the material from the lesson How to Positively Influence Others in the Workplace, and then consider the scenario below.

Paul's Dilemma

Paul, the director of human resources at a hospital, has come under intense scrutiny from federal and state regulators. As part of a routine follow up on a whistleblower's complaint, regulators made an unannounced visit to the facility. Although the complaint being investigated had very little to do with human resources, the regulators conducted a random audit of nursing licenses at the facility. During their visit, they found that one currently working nurse had a license that had expired more than a year ago.

This, of course, was an enormous problem likely to result in fines and penalties. It was also likely to require hundreds of amended filings with insurers like Medicare and money that would need to be paid back with interest.

After receiving the notice of deficiency, the hospital's CEO called Paul into his office and inquired about what had happened. Paul explained that the employee with the expired license had intentionally altered her personnel documents in an effort to avoid disclosing that her professional license had been suspended as the result of a domestic violence conviction. Paul and the CEO agreed that immediate termination, with notice to regulators, was the only way to proceed at this point.

  • What kinds of negative influences might already exist in the hospital, even before the adverse job actions are executed?

Rumor Control

When Paul called the nurse with the expired license into his office and confronted her, she made a full confession. The employee apologized and offered her resignation (which was accepted). The next day, the employee's supervisor called Paul and conveyed that morale in the department had plummeted, and that there was a palpable level of anger among team members. Paul listened carefully to the supervisor, who said, ''That employee we let go yesterday told everyone in the department that she was terminated for being ''too old.'' Now they're all mad - really mad. What should I tell them?''

  • How should Paul respond to the supervisor who will face profound negativity if Paul does not intervene?
  • Can (or should) Paul instruct the supervisor to quell the rumors by stating the true reason for the employee's termination?
  • Regardless of how you answered the last question, how could Paul and the department supervisor lessen the impact of the negative rumors if they cannot articulate the facts related to the case, or deal with the many individuals who knew the employee and do not believe their description of the situation?

After answering these questions, put yourself in Paul's position and draft a memo to the department supervisor. In the memo, give the supervisor a game plan for decreasing negativity and increasing positivity in the department.

Sample Morale-Building Plan

To help you get started, here's a simple but effective checklist Paul might suggest as a tool for building morale. (The steps do not necessarily have to be carried out in order.)

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