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Consequences of Negative Attitude in the Workplace

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Nobody likes a perpetually cranky boss or co-worker. Bad attitudes in the workplace occur for many reasons, including unfair criticism, lack of respect, favoritism and inconsistent enforcement of rules. Sometimes, a negative attitude may be part of your longstanding pessimistic personality or the stress you're experiencing outside work. Regardless of the underlying cause, your negative attitude can hurt your career, strain interpersonal relationships and even get you fired.

What Is a Negative Work Attitude?

A negative attitude at work manifests itself in verbal and nonverbal behavior. Sometimes, a negative attitude is impossible to miss, like constant complaining, filing baseless grievances and making unreasonable demands.

Other times, a negative attitude is suggested by passive-aggressive behavior, such as an angry scowl, blaming co-workers, coming to meetings late and making excuses for missed deadlines. Wearing wrinkled, disheveled and stained clothing may imply laziness or apathy.

List of Bad Attitudes in the Workplace

A bad attitude in the workplace has a ripple effect. Individuals inside the company are adversely affected as well as customers and clients who feel the negativity. The list of bad attitudes in the workplace is broad in scope. Examples include:

  • Avoiding meetings or arriving late
  • Complaining about assignments, policies and job expectations
  • Putting down the company or management
  • Fabricating or spreading rumors
  • Treating customers rudely
  • Swearing and using profanity
  • Nonverbals such as crossing arms, rolling eyes and frowning
  • Expressing outright anger and contempt
  • Making veiled or direct threats
  • Backstabbing or arguing with co-workers

Effects of a Negative Attitude in the Workplace

Negativity in the workplace affects worker morale, which consequently lowers productivity and profits for the company. Disgruntled workers who badmouth their employer impugn the reputation of the company and make it more difficult to fill open positions. Team members with negative attitudes drain time and energy from the group. Creativity is blocked.

The effects of a negative attitude in the workplace can spill over into an individual’s personal and family life. The person with the negative attitude is unlikely to come home in a cheerful, sunny mood. The spouse, partner or roommate may be expected to listen to endless stories about the so-called idiots at work and inept management. Eventually, the relationship can be strained by reoccurring, one-sided negative conversations.

Consequences of a Negative Attitude in the Workplace

Loyal employees are expected to share any concerns and work with management to bring about positive change where it is needed. Employers regard an employee with a negative attitude as a bad apple in a barrel. Progressive discipline or a referral to an employee assistance program can be initiated to address the behaviors undermining the workplace. Job termination can result if the chronic negative behavior continues.

Disgruntled, pessimistic or angry employees tend to be avoided by co-workers and unfriended. Enthusiastic workers with a positive attitude are more apt to be tapped for leadership roles, promotional opportunities and merit pay. A worker with a negative attitude may experience stress-related health problems, low self-esteem, depression and feelings of hopelessness.

Mitigating Negative Attitudes in the Workplace

Regardless of your situation, you can use coping strategies to avoid the consequences of a negative attitude if you are unhappy in your work environment. Start by making a list of negative attitudes and behaviors that you may possess. Include comments or actions that others may perceive as negative even if that is not your intention. For example, obsessively counting down the days to retirement and talking about how you can’t wait to be gone may suggest disdain for your job and co-workers.

Next, think of ways you can reframe your thinking and come across as a positive individual by seeing the bright side. Reframe problems as opportunities for growth. Little things like bringing treats to the office and volunteering to be on a committee show positive engagement.

Even if you are determined to find another job, maintaining cordial relationships at your current job will make your life more pleasant. Stay on good terms with your boss. You will need job references when pursuing a job that is a better fit.


Dr. Mary Dowd brings decades of hands-on experience to her writing endeavors. Along with general knowledge of human resources, she has specialized training in affirmative action, investigations and equal opportunity. While working as a dean of students, she advised college students on emerging career trends and job seeking strategies. As director of equal opportunity, she led efforts to diversify the workforce and the student body.