Transforming an Undesirable Environment

Transforming an Undesirable Environment

Dear Yogesh,

I am posted as a mid-level manager in human services and have a twenty-one person staff. Some of these have a professional approach to their work, handle their emotions pertinently, and are humble to other people. Though, the other two team members are a bit negative, impolite, and complaining. I have spoken about these behaviours with them, but they change for some time before reverting. I am surprised at how these team members can affect the remaining nineteen negatively. Over time, I have seen this on other teams as well, where the negative members impact the positive members, even if the positive members are in the majority. Is there a reason that negativity surpasses positivity?


Dear Discouraged,

This is an excellent question from your side. Negativity can be terrible for many workplaces. The last question from your side is thought-provoking to me that says why does negativity surpasses positivity?
I will define some reasons why negativity spreads and stays, as well as recommend numerous solutions. Have a quick glance:

  1. Negativity trumps positivity because human beings are made to be risk-averse-This seems relevant when you think about survival instincts. Worse news indicates danger and might need action. Risky signals are usually processed by the amygdala, the emotional part of our brain, instead of by the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala-mediated thoughts grab our attention & emphasis the danger. This is the reason even people who are positive pay more thoughtfulness to negative than to positive details.
  2. Individuals pay attention to negative details because it disrupts the firm’s public relations bias- Most firms and leaders try to soothe out issues by keeping it secret from the employees. The outcome is that employees are thirsty for the truth – specifically for the less-flattering truths they believe are being withdrawn from them. This entirely means they concentrate and consider the negative details they notice- even when it arrives from fewer sources.

    Explanation: The solution to these issues is to add more honest details. Individuals who have queries and concerns will turn to anyone for information. Ensure you are there first with answers.
  3. Many individuals count on others to utter for them. They are weak to utter a word for themselves- The individuals who do not speak up come under two categories- those experts at crucial conversations and those who are not. Those skilled folks know how to speak up in ways that are honest, respectful, and frank. Those who are inexpert are honest but offensive and may not realize how negative they are.

    Explanation: Make probabilities and make it secure for people to raise queries and concerns. Do not force the silent majority to depend on their least-skilled members to raise their concerns. Additionally, train and coach the less-skilled communicators to be skilled in how they raise their concerns-and direct them to raise their concerns with you.
  4. The fourth reason why negativity spreads is distinct from the first three we have mentioned because it deals with an uncommon kind of negativity: disrespectful behaviour- When somebody is impolite, others naturally respond with the disrespect that is – ‘tit for tat.’ Consequently, impoliteness becomes a poison that disperses rapidly via a team.

    Explanation: Each team has some informal norms for what constitutes respectful behavior. When disrespect is felt quite often, it might be essential to make these rules formal. This might require a team meeting, some crucial conversations, or a real code of conduct. You will need to decide how clear the rules need to be.

    Though, the key to ultimate success is not the rules but how they are imposed. This way, you need to attain 200 percent accountability: Team members are 100% accountable for being respectful; they are also 100% for others being polite. This means that team members, not you, hold each other accountable. It might need some coaching or training, but it is important. You, as the leader, cannot keep these rules operative. They should be imposed by the team members themselves.
  5. Negativity is a practice that is hard to break- We have all seen this unlucky truth. Individuals promise to stop rumor-mongering, complaining, or being disrespectful but then fall back to their same old habit.

    Explanation: You should use your CPR skills to ensure framing of the issue properly. Just have a look at the example.

    Content: If the issue is the sole incident, then address the content. The content comprises the facts about what you anticipated and what you actually detected. For instance: “When you come across any rumor, I expect you to bring it to me, so I can manage with it in a productive manner. I hear you shared a rumor this morning as if it were true-with numerous team members without checking it with me on the first part. What happened?”

    Pattern: If your main concern is with the pattern of behaviors, then speak about it. The pattern is that the individual has framed a promise or commitment and has failed to live up to it. For instance, “We have spoken before about sharing rumors without checking them with me at first place. I thought I had the commitment to evade doing this. I hear you shared a rumor this morning. If the proofs are right, then you broke the commitment to me. Help me out comprehending it.”

    Relationship: If the main concern comprises trust or respect, then speak about the relationship. The relationship might need to get altered.

    For instance, “When individuals make commitments to me and then fall flat to follow on them, I start to think I cannot trust you. And if I cannot trust you, I do not see how I can have you on my team. There help me comprehending it.”

I hope the ideas help you manage the negativity that scatters in the workplace. Help me know how they work.

Good Luck,
Yogesh Sood

This blog is an adaptation of our International Partner’s blog


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