© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Negative stiffness is not allowed by thermodynamics and hence materials and systems whose global behaviour exhibits negative stiffness are unstable. However the stability is possible when these materials/systems are elements of a larger system sufficiently stiff to stabilise the negative stiffness elements. In order to investigate the effect of stabilisation we analyse oscillations in a chain of n linear oscillators (masses and springs connected in series) when some of the springs stiffnesses can assume negative values. The ends of the chain are fixed. We formulated the necessary stability condition: only one spring in the chain can have negative stiffness. Furthermore, the value of negative stiffness cannot exceed a certain critical value that depends upon the (positive) stiffnesses of other springs. At the critical negative stiffness the system develops an eigenmode with vanishing frequency. In systems with viscous damping vanishing of an eigenfrequency does not yet lead to instability. Further increase in the value of negative stiffness leads to the appearance of aperiodic eigenmodes even with light damping. At the critical negative stiffness the low dissipative mode becomes non-dissipative, while for the high dissipative mode the damping coefficient becomes as twice as high as the damping coefficient of the system. A special element with controllable negative stiffness is suggested for designing hybrid materials whose stiffness and hence the dynamic behaviour is controlled by the magnitude of applied compressive force.