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When I was in college, I
joined a volunteer team
traveling to Mexico for
a weekend to paint a
church for an underprivileged community
in San Felipe. Altruistic of me to spend a
weekend making such a selfless choice,
right? But truthfully, at that time in my life,
I wasn't primarily interested in the trip for
a philanthropic reason. I was the little sister
to a fraternity. I was primarily interested
in hanging out with the frat boys on our
team, and secondarily interested in helping
out needy kids. Despite my upside-down
priorities on that trip, though, the most
important goal was realized: The church
got painted. The good outcome of helping
children was realized.
I use that example to express a truth
about combating negativity at your work-
place. Yes, it is optimal that people feel
better about their jobs. However, the most
important thing for you as a manager is to
realize the outcome: to keep the negativity
from a ecting productivity and morale. You
don't have to want to turn negative people
into positive ones; you just have to want
The Cost of Negativity
As Gary Topchik notes in his book
Managing Workplace Negativity, the e ects
of negativity are measurable---and costly. In
your organization, you have probably seen
how negativity can lead to these results:
• More client complaints
• Higher error rates and lower work
• Increased turnover
• Increased absences and tardiness
• More personality conflicts
• Loss of morale and motivation
• Loss of loyalty to the organization
• Loss of creativity and innovation
Stop the Locomotives in Their Tracks
To resist negativity, consider the mindset
of the other person. It doesn't take a degree
in behavioral science to realize that fear is
the driving force behind most of the nega-
tivity scarring your workplace.
Do you recognize these 10 negative roles
at your organization? (Do you occasionally
see yourself falling into these categories
once in a while, too?) If you're at a loss
for how to defuse the fear powering these
behaviors, consider these simple strate-
gies for overcoming negativity traps and
transforming your team:
1. Locomotives roll over people. Stand
up to bullying, and don't let trains take
over the task---or your team.
2. Perfectionists are never satisfied.
As a result, they waste time. Help them
set realistic expectations of what can be
3. Resisters strongly dislike change.
Involve them in the process so they don't
feel that new policies and processes are
just being thrown at them without any
possibility for feedback.
4. Not-my-jobbers avoid work. Make
it "all about them." Reframe challenges in
a way that helps them find opportunities
for their own growth.
5. Pessimists always see the worst in
situations. For example, when they see
read "opportunity is nowhere" instead of
"opportunity is now here." Help them
adopt positive behaviors, such as viewing
negative situations as temporary.
6. Criticizers knock ideas down.
Ask for specific feedback on reasons an
idea won't work. For every criticism they
make, require them to o er one solution.
7. Sacrificers feel unappreciated.
They arrive early, stay late and work holi-
days and weekends. Give them positive
feedback as often as possible.
8. Self-castigators constantly find
fault with themselves. Gather evidence
to the contrary to make them aware of just
how much they're valued.
9. Scapegoaters shift responsibility.
Calmly share specific examples of how
their mistakes have caused problems for
you or the company.
10. Micros focus on small errors.
Encourage them to evaluate the whole
project and not get bogged down in details.
Finally, try this subtle trick: Don't
mentally place yourself "against" these
negative Not-My-Jobbers, Criticizers and
Scapegoaters. Try placing yourself "with."
Side by side, look at the issues powering the
negativity. Little by little, with persistence
and patience, you'll move from confronta-
tion to conversation. •
10 ways to see the glass as half full:
in the Workplace
By Karen Purves
Purves was a presenter
on this topic at the 2010
Conference & Vendor Fair. She is an
international speaker who combines
more than 20 years of business expe-
rience along with training from "The
Second City" improv theater. Contact
her at email@example.com.
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