What is an approach to improving the flow of “negative” communications within the organization?
Having constructive criticism in a trusting environment goes a long way to improving overall communication, and as a result, increases rates of reported employee satisfaction. Here are some ways to combat negative communication and create a positive work environment within any organization:
1) Think before you speak. The Chinese proverb, "Trouble comes from the mouth" is apropos. Although this can be difficult in the heat of the moment in disagreements, if there is a serious problem to be addressed, you should take a "time out." Compose your thoughts and chose the precise words needed to address criticism constructively.
Avoid "finger pointing" language that sounds "bossy" if you are not the boss (and even if you are, more flies with honey, as the saying goes.) Language like "You should..." or "You need to... " or blaming a whole group instead of individuals with admonitions such as "You people.." are perceived negatively whether it is meant to be taken that way or not.
2) Don't paint all with the same brush. It can be tempting to blame a group when problems occur but doing so is not constructive. In a group, some players may have given their best effort while others did not, resulting in a weak or failed goal.
3) Address issue or result, not the character of the employee. According to Psychology Today
Being tough on the person and soft on the issue can easily arouse negative reactions from people, who are likely to take what you’re saying more personally, and as a result feel angry, resentful, hurt or resistant.
For example consider these two responses:
Ineffective communication: “You are so stupid!”
Effective communication: “You’re a smart person, and what you did this morning was not very smart.”
4) People, not robots. Whether you are in management or are trying to communicate with colleagues, remember that people don't always need to have you agree with them, but the DO need to have their feelings validated. Saying things like "You don't have any reason to complain" or "Stop overreacting!" does nothing to improve communication; in fact, the next time there is a problem, the employee may simply decide the issue is not worth bringing up, which often results in further problems. Instead, be ready to listen and ask open ended questions like "Can you tell me why you feel that way?" or "Tell me more about that" can help work through issues.