Not all negativity in the workplace is a bad sign. Common sense says employees who describe their workplace in negative terms are the ones that are more likely to leave it, but new research shows this isn’t the case.

The study identified some forms of negativity are benign and can be tolerated, whereas others are loud and clear warning signs in terms of employee retention. Study participants were asked to describe their past experiences with the organisations they had worked for, both good and bad.

Three forms of negativity predicted that employees will have a greater intention to leave an organisation one year later: disappointment, strong negativity (such as anger or ridicule) and indirect negativity (like focusing on the negatives in a positive story). Other forms of negativity, like complaints, entitlement and even despair, did not.