The Grinch Who Stole Business

"Glass half empty" people cost you money--here's how to deal with them and prevent negativity from spreading.

Every business has one: the "glass half empty" person who's always on the lookout for something to go wrong and spends the bulk of the workday promoting gloom and doom and disparaging everything from projects to people.

This person's "it'll never work" attitude is rubbing off, too. You notice that other employees-once shiny, happy, motivated people-are starting to gossip and criticize. When it comes down to it, negativity is like the flu: It's contagious. It's also expensive. Workplace negativity costs companies millions in terms of productivity and profitability.

Eradicating negativity from the workplace is also next to impossible. After all, you can't please all the people all the time. So how do you deal with an employee whose negativity is starting to rub off on other people? While it's easy to chalk the person's behavior up to the generic "bad attitude" and ignore it, that can actually fuel the fire by setting a negative cultural norm, says Gary Topchik, managing partner of employer consulting firm SilverStar Enterprises Inc. and author of a new book called Managing Workplace Negativity (AMACOM).

"Quite often, the organization is causing the negativity and actually gives employees the license to be negative," Topchik says. "Leaders need to confront the negativity and talk about it."

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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog,

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This article was originally published in the March 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Grinch Who Stole Business.

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