It's no secret that employees today are working harder than ever despite the economic slowdown. Many employers have cut jobs and frozen hiring, increasing workloads for those staffers who remain. The mantra these days is: "Do more with less."

Workers who survive may find they have little choice but to pitch in by putting in longer hours or skipping vacation days. Given the current state of labor market, those who have jobs are loath to complain about increased workloads lest they, too, find themselves on the unemployment lines.

The strain, however is taking its toll. Among the problems, managers are reporting higher levels of negative attitudes that are harming performance and productivity, according to a survey conducted by Right Management, the career-management consulting arm of Manpower (MAN).

Detrimental to Getting Work Done

About 60% of those polled said negativity is making it more difficult for employees to stay focused, according to the survey of more than 1,400 human-resource managers and executives. Criticism, gossip and lack of teamwork are all contributing to reduced productivity, the poll found. That's a problem for employers because reduced productivity costs companies money.

"Two out of three [of those surveyed] indicated that negativity in the workplace makes it difficult for workers to focus on their jobs and that these attitudes are detrimental to the work that needs to get done," says Michael Haid, senior vice president of global solutions at Right Management.

Workplace negativity is hardly a new phenomenon, Haid says. "But it's fair to speculate that difficult business conditions, along with disruptive levels of change, make the current situation worse." Such negativity manifests itself in conflicts among employees, sarcastic remarks and absenteeism, among other behaviors.

A third of the survey respondents said management has taken steps to address negative attitudes or troublesome behaviors, Haid says. "It can become contagious, and management can't just stand by."

Productivity Is on the Rise

Despite the survey's results, there are no data to suggest that worker productivity is slipping. Indeed, in its latest quarterly report on productivity released earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that productivity increased 2.5% during the last four quarters, as worker output rose 4.1% and the number of hours worked increased 1.6%.

There's no data to back up the claim that negativity is costing businesses money, says Christy Caridi, director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Still, it makes sense that negative attitudes displayed by fellow employees or supervisors would affect the workers around them, says Christopher Collins, professor of human-resource management at Cornell University.

"I don't know if I've seen the relationship to productivity," Collins says. "But it certainly has a negative effect on engagement in the organization." Employee engagement is a buzz phrase that entered the business lexicon several years ago to describe workers' performance and enthusiasm on the job, and their loyalty to employers.

Pushing Blame Up the Ladder

Collins' own experience and some research reveal that "negative behavior from front-line supervisors is particularly damaging" to employee engagement. Executives say it's not uncommon for midlevel managers to blame unwelcome changes in the workplace on corporate decision-making, to deflect worker anger away from themselves, he says.

Shifting blame further up the corporate ladder, however, can negatively alter employees' attitudes about the company and its mission. So called "disengaged" employees are a potential problem for employers as the economy continues to recovery. "As soon as things pick up [workers] are going to be splitting for a better job elsewhere," Collins says.

So what can employers do? Workers function at their highest level when employees are engaged to their fullest. That means they like their boss, their colleagues, the company they work for and the work they're doing. So it's important to ferret out any negative Nellies, especially if they're in a supervisory capacity.

It's important to identify those with negative attitudes and not let them fester, Collins says. There may be a good reason why an employee is unhappy, and the problem can be fixed. But sometimes it can't, and it's important to recognize that.

Sometimes, people are just negative. In those instances, employers need to find a place where such employees might be a better fit. "If someone is really unhappy," Collins says, "do something about it. Don't just let it go."

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Under Obama, there is 17 million more on food stamps, record living in poverty, and $6 trillion more debt. He's been in office 4 years, and the libtards are still blaming Bush! They had full control from 2009 - 2011!!! What did they do?!? Unemployment was over 8% for 43 months! I'll bet jetmech made more while Bush was president. I sure did!

December 04 2012 at 2:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Working more for less. Seems like we are just moving backwords. Where is the shared sacrifice? If more people were working and had jobs. They would go out and spend to move the economy along some. Stop all the greed already and let's get out of this mess ...finally.

November 23 2010 at 7:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lakota70561's comment

What do you want them to do? How about you start your own company and "spend it" here?

December 04 2012 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Seriously, are you kidding me Collins? I just had an all associate meeting last week at my job and there will be no pay raises in my company until, they're hoping, 2013. Furthermore, my work load has doubled (along with many of my associate's) and I make $9 an hour. How could any employee in my position possibly be happy about their job and remain upbeat unless they were eating Prozac pills like Pez candy? For American CEO's, Managers, Executives, etc. to suggest that there is something wrong with workers who voice their displeasure during these rough economic times and not give creedence to their authentic and warranted feelings; that is yet another chapter of the American worker being dehumanized by self-serving management and executives only interested in their own career stability and trajectory. I'm grateful that I can barely put food on the table right now. Some cannot. However, you and people like you can go to hell for being so out of touch with the true heartbeat of America right now.

November 23 2010 at 6:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I am a department head in a very fast paced retail big box store.The people in my department are, by and large, well trained and customer oriented. The store is statistically diverse. A few on the left side of the curve need to go and many in the middle are written up for minor infractions. There is not enough time to do a good, thorough job and those of us who do care are frustrated beyond belief. We are tired. There is no long range planning. Most everything is a reaction to an event happening within a week or a day, yet, there would be time if the middle managers had a clue. Of the four, one is sharp, one has some focus, one is unfocused and one is scared of being unemployed. They talk of people being engaged and empowered. In reality, whimsy drives the ship. But because most of us like the business (and need the job) we put up with irrational decisions, hemming and hawing that is mind numbing. At the top of this shaky ladder is a person so over the top on feeling good and so under experienced in our business that we employ every avoidance maneuver we can. The theft from the surrounding communities is very high. Many of the customers can't communicate, some steal in plain view, some treat us like we're slaves. And yet we go on. We are exhausted, dirty, pushed to the limit, working sick and bogged down in paperwork, forced to treat everything as an A priority and frustrated. But the secret to our success is that those who do work and those at our management level are the best we've ever worked with. We share, talk, grouse and work well together. From the "MASH" TV days, we are the Radar O'Reillys who make the system work inspite of those above us.

November 23 2010 at 5:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yep and the rich got richer over the past four years. Meanwhile they've accomplished what they set out to do --transfer more wealth into their pockets lower wages across the board and have a younger work force--more in line with the global community.

November 23 2010 at 4:26 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to apercu001's comment

Got richer over what? I wanna know where you got that liberal blog cut & paste talking points from? Under Obama EVERYONE is making less!

December 04 2012 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A person voting republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders. Whenever you all want to stop going in reverse, just drop that bad habit of voting for Colonel Sanders and start voting for pro-American Democrats who support good strong labor unions. Back in the '50s when unions were at their peak, America was humming along in overdrive....because most Americans had good jobs with good benefitts and they spread it all around....which supported the econonomy. Now the wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few wealthy elites....and they don't spread it around enough to support the economy. That's whats known as FAILED REPUBLICAN POLICIES.

November 23 2010 at 3:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to jetmechay's comment

The really fun part is getting up and hauling it out every morning while everyone else on my street sleeeps. They all are collecting unemployment or other government benefits and are tired from watching tv all day. I've had neighbors tell me what a fool I am to keep working when "alls I has too doos is collect my govment check'.These morons think the money they get is free and not out of the pocket of everyone still working.

November 23 2010 at 2:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Celestialmotion's comment

Right Celest. You and your neighbors must be real winers. I cant imagine anyone braging and being happy about collecting unemployment. ( Which in most states pays less then what a minimum wage job would pay at full time employment.) I hear this republican crap all the time.. People are lazy they would rather draw unemployment then work.. blah blah blah. No people are not. The simply need to be paid a reasonable amount of money to survive. (taking a part time minimum wage job as a dish washer, just isnt going to pay the bills my friends.)

November 23 2010 at 3:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

As a successful and retired business manager whose career touched several industries I have no problem believing that current multi-nationals have a problem with negative attitudes. Let me suggest some reasons: Asking increasingly more, from increasingly fewer people. Here's a newflash. There is a breaking point. Asking existing employees to absorb higher and higher cost for healthcare. What used to be a benefit, is now used as a cost pass through requiring employees to pay to increasingly more for less health insurance. Assuming employees making $50,000 a year with three children are as invested in the company as those making $5,000,000 a year plus bonuses. As the difference between "top management" and the people that do the job continue to spread apart at astronomical rates, it becomes more difficult for the employee whose raise, if any, might be 2% when the "top managers" are rewarded with million dollar bonuses even in years when results are negative. There is no equality in reward for performance. Or could it be that defined pensions have dissappeared, with the advent of the 401K in which employers are rapidly reducing or eliminating the "matching" benefit. Or could it be the jobs being moved overseas. Or could it be the total lack of loyalty of any company to it's employees. Corporations today are job shope. So the poor shmuck on the front line is unhappy and the "corporate" answer is fire the first line supervisors who are normally the only person holding the image together. Good thinking guys. With a few notable exceptions todays senior managers and their direct reports are so out of touch that it is laughable. It is the 1900s, the gilded age again, and like that age it will crash unmercifully. Unfortunately, as usual, it will be "the workers" who suffer more than the managers. (How many managers of "failed" financial firms lost their jobs, their bonuses, their golden parachutes, or did time for failing in their fiduciary responsibility. None. The system is broken. The propoganda has created a culture where reality no longer matters.

November 23 2010 at 12:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

After 20 years on the job, grandsons of the founder run (ruin) the company. If the founder had treated the employees with the pressures and disrespect current employees receive, these "experts" who were born with a silver spoon would have to be out on the labor force working for a living.

November 23 2010 at 12:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When salesboyship, image , marketeering, golf buddy cliques and human resource department mickey mouse games all take precedence over honest work and productivity then attitudes suffer. When productivity increases but wages are stagnant attitudes suffer. When the rewards of hard work are reserved for management buddies then attitudes suffer. When shareholder value takes precedence over values like quality, employee morale, research and development then workers take the same attitude, they are only there to make a buck just like the business which is only managed to make a buck. Sorry too many business owners have taken the attitude of the salesboy who is only in it for a buck then wonder why their employees take the same approach. The banksters and salesboys have ruined this country with their flagrant dishonesty and sleaziness. It will be many years before trust is restored. That will only start when integrity and respect is restored. Integrity and respect are not the ways of todays businessman who is schooled in the modern pseudo CONservative ayn rand philosophy of selfishness and complete lack of personal integrity.

November 22 2010 at 11:52 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply