HR Forum

‘Nattering nabobs of negativism’

Nanz Chong-Komo is an expert on the art of combating negativity.

The model, corporate speaker, entrepreneur, mother and writer has many reasons to feel positive about her life, her career and her business ventures.

But are her experiences relevant to the world of human resource (HR)?

Chong-Komo says they are. She relates to HR professionals because their line of work is similar to what she has devoted her career to — relating to people and sharing her observations with others.

She seeks gaps in knowledge or products and then fills them with her expertise and business sense.

Her various enterprises — which include Klis, a best-selling book of business lessons, a clothing boutique and The One.99 Shop — are testament to an undaunted approach towards new projects.

She feels that there is a lack of positive cultures in modern life despite the obvious need for them.

“There is no conscious effort to inject positive culture,” she says.

She describes negativity in the workplace as a “flu bug”.

When the body’s immune system is strong, the flu is easy to overcome and is a non-event. But if the immune system is weak, the flu can bring unexpected and serious complications.

Similarly, a company with a strong and sound culture does not need to worry if a little bit of negativity surfaces.

But if the company does not have a rooted identity, negativity can have complex implications.

“Multiple treatments will be needed to repair this problem,” she says, adding that in some cases, it may already be too late.

Neglecting to address such weakness is a reflection of weak leadership.

“It’s a conscious decision to allow negativity to grow,” she says.

Research suggests that a casual attitude towards such problems can lead to a decline in employee morale and productivity in an organisation.

“Negativity always leads to disunity — a killer in every team,” adds Chong-Komo.

Easier said than done

Spotting negativity — or even discussing it — may seem a “fluffy” topic compared with others on a HR department’s agenda. Retention, performance indicators and competency testing often garner greater headlines.

Chong-Komo says this may be because “negativity” is difficult to pin down.

But she says this is exactly why HR needs to be involved in combating it in the workplace environment. She believes that HR teams have the capacity to communicate causes of negativity and recommend positive solutions to the heads of departments.

To start with, HR should build good relationships with all individuals in an organisation.

“Emotional intelligence (EQ) is big here,” she says.

It’s almost an understatement. In fact, possessing and being able to use EQ is the HR professional’s prerequisite to avoiding politics, backstabbing, bitterness and rivalry in the workplace.

If negativity already exists in the organisation, there are methods of identifying and banishing it before it destroys the culture.

She stresses that the process isn’t just about looking for a cure, but also spotting the symptoms and going to their roots.

“HR needs to know why negativity exists in each person,” she explains.

In economically bleak times, there are many opportunities for negativity to thrive. She emphasises the role that great leaders have played to help steer people away from a pessimistic and counter-productive mindsets.

But HR also has a number of obstacles to overcome if it wants to confront and eliminate negativity in the workplace.

She says most people in organisations do not perceive their actions as negative or damaging, and so they don’t feel they are part of the problem.

Communicating this issue tactfully, persuasively and truthfully can be very challenging.

Employees also must understand the extent to which a few negative behaviours and actions can keep an organisation from reaching its goals.

Explaining the potential risks can be difficult for HR, who may be seen as overreacting.

There is also the issue of quantification. If HR makes progress in combating negativity and wants to maintain its success, it needs to measure efforts against results.

With something as ambiguously defined as negativity, this process can be difficult.

However, HR doesn’t need to feel discouraged by these roadblocks.

Identifying negativity and stamping it out from the workplace should still be an important part of HR’s agenda because it is the key to differentiating a good organisational culture from an extraordinary one. - Source: ST/ANN

Nanz Chong-Komo is an entrepreneur and author.