Thursday, March 30, 2006

Negative People

I wonder if anyone has ever calculated the impact that negative people have on the workplace.

If you've been working for more than two weeks, you know the ones I'm talking about. These are the people who rush to play "devil's advocate" when a new proposal is surfaced, who eagerly pass on any rumor of a downturn, and who can turn the smallest problem into a major crisis.

For them, the glass is always half empty and it's a little dirty too. In response to the observation that things could always be worse, they say, "And they will be" or "Things could always be better."

These poor souls are not technically incompetent - some are very bright - but they can drag down a team through the drip, drip, drip of their poisonous comments. They stay in many workplaces that are not strictly employment at will because civil service and personnel boards are reluctant to terminate for amorphous reasons. Negativity resembles the old line about obscenity - you know it when you see it - but try selling that to a review board.

It is a shame that the equivalent of the Monopoly game's "Get Out of Jail Free" card isn't available in such circumstances. The closest thing, of course, is the employment at will doctrine that permits employers to fire people for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all.

Is there a third way?

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