Business of Well-being

The Office Eeyore: How They Negatively Impact the Workplace

Weekday mornings start the same for many of us. The alarm buzzes, we reluctantly roll out of bed, and then prepare ourselves for the upcoming day. It's a fairly regimented daily routine, which is necessary if we want to get to work, or elsewhere, on time. While you're getting ready or on commute to the workplace, what do you think about?

Are you in knots because you're thinking about everything that you need to accomplish today? Or, are you thinking ahead to your plans for the weekend? Is the recent frustrating encounter with a co-worker on your mind? Whatever the case, it's important to focus on and practice positive thinking as it will set the tone for your day.

There's nothing worse than starting a workday, or any day for that matter, with a grumbling, negative co-worker. The type of employee who is a chronic complainer, generally uninspired, with a serious lack of enthusiasm. Some may call them "disengaged," but I like to refer to this type of individual as the office Eeyore.

If you're not familiar with the Winnie-the-Pooh character, he's a cartoon donkey who's characterized as being pessimistic, gloomy and depressed. Unless you work for the Walt Disney Company, Eeyore's in the office can be damaging to the workplace.

A Harvard Business Review article by Christine Porath claims that these "de-energizing relationships, whether experienced personally, or within one's workgroup, provoke a sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction, reduce motivation, and increase people's intentions to leave."

The article also stated that "the effect of one de-energizing tie is four to seven times greater than the effect of a positive or energizing tie. In other words, bad is stronger than good. This means that countless coworkers are often sucked into the negativity, bringing about a host of ill effects, such as less information sharing, plummeting motivation and performance, and a decreased sense of thriving at work."

What can employers do about the dreaded de-energizing office Eeyore?

Porath's article suggested isolating the toxic person or getting rid of them altogether. She had seen companies deploy the isolation strategy, including a Fortune 500 high-tech firm, and declared that it usually works. HR Company, Insperity, published an article by Megan Moran that recommends dealing with negativity in the workplace on a case-by-case basis. The bad behavior may be a result of stress or personal issues.

Moran writes, "Let them know that you see a change in attitude, and it's having a negative effect on the team and company." She continues, "You can start the conversation by reminding your employee that in addition to performing job duties, it's company policy to respect the rights and feelings of others and refrain from behavior that is harmful to himself, co-workers or the company. A negative attitude affects all of those."

How can co-workers of the office Eeyore survive?

Career and workplace expert, Heather Huhman, said in a Business News Daily article that "nearly all employees are forced to deal with bad co-workers." "The best thing you can do in this situation is to let the annoying things your co-worker does roll off your back," she wrote.

"[Dwelling] on the negative can distract you from being productive. At the end of the day, it's up to you to stay focused on what you need to accomplish and to have a positive attitude at work."

What are some strategies to create and maintain a positive attitude?

  • Upon waking each morning and starting your day, take a few deep breaths and find something that you're grateful for. It could be your children, partner, your health, or the beauty outside your window!
  • Take a few moments while you're either showering, eating breakfast or on commute, to consciously set your energy and intention towards your day.
  • Consider what makes you truly happy. Thoughts create emotions. Happy thoughts create happy emotions!

As employers, it's important to identify the office Eeyore, their impact on the workplace, and to create a beneficial solution. A positive and thriving work environment will lead to improved financial performance, productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.

Photo - Copyright: nito500 / 123RF Stock Photo

About the Author

Rebecca Gicante CCWS

Rebecca Gicante is a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist who is employed by Heart Niagara, a cardiac health non-profit, in corporate development and communications. She is a passionate promoter of health and lifestyle empowerment and looks forward to pursuing her career in corporate wellness.

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