Such negative-minded workers are more likely to become mentally fatigued and defensive and experience a drop-off in production, the findings showed.

"The irony of that is, when people are mentally fatigued they are less likely to point out problems anymore," said study co-author Russell Johnson, management professor at Michigan State University.

"In addition, their own work performance suffers, they are less likely to be cooperative and helpful, and they even exhibit deviant behaviours such as being verbally abusive and stealing from the employer," Johnson said.

The study involved two field surveys of more than 300 workers in a variety of occupations such as accounting, retail, manufacturing and health care.

Johnson said workers who regularly point out problems or errors might be mentally fatigued because this often means they are highlighting other workers' shortcomings and causing tension in their relationships.

"The moral of this story is not that we want people to stop raising concerns within the company, because that can be extremely beneficial," Johnson noted.

"But constantly focusing on the negative can have a detrimental effect on the individual," he added.

The study was published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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