Employee attitudes at work

Research shows a strong link between the state of the workplace, the happiness of employees, and productivity

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

In the middle of that chain is employee attitude — when employees are happy and engaged, attitudes and productivity are more likely to be positive.

You just need the tools to deal with negative attitudes and foster good ones. By effectively managing the workplace and employees, you can positively shape attitudes and even improve your company’s performance.

What can affect employee attitude?

Wouldn’t it be nice if your employees were all happy people, smiling through each and every work day? Sadly that can’t be, because people’s attitudes are dampened and lifted by all kinds of factors outside their own control. It’s HR’s role to manage these factors in the workplace, to prevent negative attitudes arising.

Employee engagement

Engagement is a term covering employee satisfaction, commitment and motivation. Research shows only around 39% of UK employees feel ‘positively engaged’ (CIPD 2010). Ways to positively engage employees include:

  • Providing strong leadership
  • Line managers who motivate and empower
  • Listening to the employee voice throughout the organisation
  • Having organisational integrity, i.e. the company living up to its stated values (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 2009)

The psychological contract

The psychological contract is not a legal document, but a conceptualisation of the relationship between employer and employee — and what you expect of each other. The psychological contract is ‘broken’ when employees feel their employer has acted unfairly or breaks promises. This can negatively impact engagement and job satisfaction, leading to negative workplace attitudes.

Personal issues and problems outside the workplace

Negative employee attitudes can also arise for external reasons. For example, personal or family problems can cause an employee to bring negativity into work. HR can’t solve those problems, but you can still support the employee and manage attitudes.

How to positively shape employee attitudes

Prevention is the best cure, as they say. Rather than wait for negativity to arise, you can use methods to positively shape employee attitudes in your workplace.

Make sure employees have a voice

When management listens to employee concerns and acts upon them, negativity is less likely to fester. Give employees opportunities to voice concerns, both formally and informally, and take them seriously. It'll help sometimes to keep a record of your employee's concerns, our human resources software allows you to keep notes on employees.

Make the workplace a positive place

Some people are naturally prone to pessimism and complaining, but you can’t allow their attitude to bring others down. You can counteract negativity by:

  • Praising employees for their successes
  • Focusing on solutions instead of problems, by getting employees to think of solutions to their complaints

How to manage a negative employee attitude

No matter how great your workplace, you’re going to face negative employee attitudes at some point. And since negative emotions are contagious, you’ll want to deal with them quickly and effectively.

  • Start by identifying the negative employee, their actions and the impact they’re having on the workplace.
  • Talk to the employee. Show them the impact of their attitude, and make it clear negativity won’t be tolerated.
  • Support the employee to change their attitude. Give them an opportunity to explain their problems, encourage them to find a solution and provide help if needed.

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

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