People are sometimes described as “glass half-empty (negative)” or “glass half-full (positive)” types. A recent study took those descriptors a step further by looking at how such dispositional attitudes affect productivity in the workplace. Believe it or not, those employees who stayed task-focused in order to get their jobs done were labeled “negative,” “grumps,” and “haters.” Haters?! When did “good workers” get labeled as “haters?”
My husband Ron, a Fox News contributor, was on Fox News Radio a couple of weeks ago (listen here) discussing this topic because of a Parade Magazine article released online June 23, 2014 titled, “Could Negativity Benefit Your Career?” The two researchers, who were referenced in the article, classified people according to whether they either generally like or dislike things—“likers” and “haters.” (Why “haters” instead of “dislikers?!”) “Likers” are those who are more open, positive, accepting, and social, thus prone to like a wide variety of things. “Haters” are those who are more critical-thinking, narrow, and do fewer things than likers, thus prone to dislike a wide variety of things. The study concluded that haters are actually more productive workers than likers and may be “getting ahead at work.” Okay, that’s positive.
What disturbs me are the labels applied. Studies done in 2001 then again in 2007 looked at the same contrast in behavioral temperaments in the workplace—task-oriented versus people-oriented—and called the task-oriented workers “sad,” “negative,” and “grumps.” Notice the pattern here—the attempt to characterize skilled, productive, task-oriented workers as closed-minded, negative, grumpy people (and now “haters”).
I think it is unkind to classify those focused on completing the work entrusted to them by their employer as grumpy or a hater just because they are busy tuning out the “social noise” that surrounds them. Sure, there is a time for social banter during lunch and designated break times. You can and should build healthy relationships with coworkers because your work is a significant ministry for you as a Christian (see my blog about this). Work is where you spend up to 2/3 of your waking hours. But, most companies need employees to be productive, which is a proper act of worship. Where did the praise of “responsible employees” go?
The New Testament teaches believers to be responsible employees, as in Colossians 3:23 1 Thessalonians 4:11, and 2 Thessalonians 3:11. So, if a Christian worker chooses to focus on her job, accomplish the work needed, and say no to frivolous socialization at work that distracts from getting the job done, she may now be labeled a “hater” or “grump” because social psychologists say it is so. What do you think about that?
Hate implies a deep emotional revulsion that the researchers probably never intended to propagate. But, it is tempting for “likers” to use it as an excuse for the purging of anyone they perceive to be negative or grumpy. These terms might become the new buzz words for employee management, even more so as socially-minded “likers”—who feel intimidated by grumps or just consider them to be undesirable—get promoted into management. So, if you and I get the job done and resist the temptation to waste company time by continually checking social media, or choose not to listen to a co-worker sharing for an hour about her weekend thrills (while we are desperately trying to get work done), why should we be considered “haters” and not “good workers?” Just saying…
For more information, read "Your Work Matters to God" by Sue Bohlin.