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Negative Communication Led to Misery at Work: A Case Study

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 26 Jul 2015 | comments*Discuss
Negative Communication Work Office

The way in which a manager communicates to staff has a widespread impact throughout a workplace. This is one example of negative communication that in the end led Robin Wright-Smith to change his job.


“I’m optimistic by nature, but eventually anything can get you down. Anyhow, I thought I’d found a job I would enjoy – in fact, on paper the job suited me perfectly. But the reality was far different.


“When you join a new employer, I suppose you hope you’ll get on with everybody and find yourself working in a pleasant atmosphere. This was certainly my hope.

“The trouble was, the manager acted as though the world was about to end. Every day, he passed through the office making downbeat comments. At first, I thought he was being ironic and jokey, and I laughed out loud. My response didn’t go down at all well.

“I then cottoned on to the fact that he was an extremely negative person. He didn’t just make gloomy remarks about work topics, he made unnecessary and pessimistic points about the economy, world affairs, anything at all – and to no one in particular.

“I soon realised that stuck in the office at our desks, we were his captive audience. And these bleak tirades of his happened not once, but two or three times a day.

“To me, this wasn’t how to lead a team. I’d even say it was the exact opposite.


“After a week or so, I kept an eye open for the manager. When he appeared, I asked if anyone wanted a cup of tea or coffee, and headed off to the tea area. Even there, however, I could still hear him moaning about something or other.

“What struck me was that he wasn’t complaining to anybody specific about something. I could have understood that better. Instead, he was being generally world-weary.


“I did at this point begin to wonder if I was being over-sensitive, After all, I was new to the office, still a little nervous, and wanting to get things right.

“It was clear from the way my colleagues acted, though, that I wasn’t exaggerating the situation. What I mean is that the manager’s negative communication rubbed off on them.

“I suppose this isn’t surprising when you think that some of them had probably endured him for years. When I asked them questions about work, for instance, or ventured to make a few friendly comments, they were polite but cynical and tired-sounding.

“What’s more, I noticed that none of them would go out of their way to do anything for the company beyond the bare minimum.

Moving On

“I suppose because I was young and wanted to make a good career for myself, I decided to move on. I fully appreciate that not everyone can simply up sticks and look for another job, but I had to get out of there.

“I felt sorry for the rest of the staff, but I didn’t want to spend eight or more hours a day in an atmosphere of cheerlessness. At times, the mood in the office even verged on depression.

“So I left before the end of my probation period. Luckily, I’ve found an office where the manager is a lot more positive. She’s someone who clearly understands that how she acts affects the people around her. I wonder, though, just how long the company I used to work for can survive with such a negative misery at the helm.”

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