A few days ago I posted on social media a similar image to the one above that attracted some interesting engagement. So today I thought I’d write about how to fire this negative virus from organizations. The post began with me citing the outcome of a study that shows negative thoughts are so contagious that depression can spread from person to person. This essentially means one negative person can spread toxicity to others at work, school, in business and lower productivity of all around.

Someone added a comment to my post saying we should not brush aside the negative person (I don’t exactly recall the entire comment as he has deleted his remark). To a degree I believe I understand his point of view, however the study supports that negativity is contagious. This notion should never be brushed aside especially because it affects everyone’s performance and wellbeing.

When I worked in a corporate setting, I too experienced times when I became negative and sometimes angry under protocol. But the impact of this type of workplace culture causes a resistance to change and can swiftly narrow both productivity and profitability. A negative work culture will never give you a positive organization. Negativity can be fired.

It isn’t always easy managing a corporate culture. Everyone has to be on the same page otherwise there will be some toxicity, politics, inconsistencies, ego pushing and back-stabbing. I’ve certainly experienced my share when I worked in this kind of environment and discovered some blatant negative characteristics like these:

• Verbal – sarcasms, whispering remarks, yelling, whining, gossiping.
• Visual – rolling eyes, avoiding eye contact, frowning, shrugging, shutting down.
• Violent – taking out their frustrations on others.
• Victim – irresponsible of their own mistakes so they point fingers at others.
• Vulnerable – push them too hard and they strike back.
• Viewer – observing what others are doing wrong for creating an issue.
• Vacater – frequently absenteeism and lateness.

Firing Negativity

Leaders are accountable for the wellbeing of the organization’s culture. It is the responsibility of the head to recognize the situation and implement the best interventions to have positive engagement. The vast majority of employed people across 142 countries are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive. If my leader had been opened to the shared visions of his team and appreciated our united strengths, I believe more innovation, productivity, quality output, and customer satisfaction would have resulted.

No matter what the challenge is, every organization has a positive core. This may include united strengths, greatest experiences and achievements, best practices, successes and a significant learning tool. Organizations should therefore look to fire the negative behavior and run a positive institution in how they communicate, coach and control.

Communicate. Organizational leaders must embrace change and effectively communicate change to their subordinates and across department heads. Conversations should always elevate, educate and motivate the listener. Discuss the outcome you wish to see instead of talking about what you see wrong. We live in a world our questions create. When the world changes its question, everything can change. Positive communication creates a success growth culture. In place of questioning the negative, focus on positive engagement. And, let go of the ego.

Coach. When a group’s self-esteem is not equal to their potential, it frustrates everyone. Look at their work, look at their strengths and see how to match these up. These strenghts are at the core of who they are. It gives them real purpose and brings daily fulfillment. When talking about their strengths, the passion in their tone and voice is evident and confidence rises. Research shows it’s just important to build what’s right with you as it is to fix what’s wrong with you.

See yourself as a life-improver and the career-sustainer. See yourself beyond your title and be that world-class team coach to influence an innovative culture. Pay attention to the very first question you ask. Be genuinely present and curious about everyone’s thoughts, feelings and ideas through the power of questions like these:

• What’s good with you today?
• What is it about your job you like best?
• When were you at your best?
• What drew you to this organization?
• What do you value about your job?
• What achievements are you most proud of?
• Describe an experience when you felt most supported.

Control. Another word for control is monitor. Here is where leaders must look inward to monitor self-behavior. Is it possible that you’ve contributed to this negative behavior in some way that may be oblivious to you? How might have you contributed? How’s your tone? Do you tend to look at the worst or the best in others? Our brain has the tendency to go to the worst case scenario. Are you making rational and logical decisions for the betterment of the working culture while under pressure? Dr. Barbara Fredrickson suggests keeping your negativity in check by questioning your mental habits that fan the flames, like jumping to conclusions or ruminating. She says,

Losing your cool in a strenuous situation may inhibit your ability to cope effectively.

Run a Positive Institution

In the final analysis, could it be that a negative culture is created when leadership is controlling everything except self? Firing this infectious virus is in the hands of management. Leave no table unturned to get to the root of the cause. It takes a concerted effort for an organization to bring sustainable positive change. But it’s definitely doable. People can live-out their character traits and purpose at work. A recent report argues that purpose-oriented employees do better work, have higher wellbeing, stay in their jobs longer and are better ambassadors for their employers.

On the designing side, if an organization adopts positive interventions that are clear, easy and gratifying, and if leaders are able to transform mindsets, the institution can be immune from negative viruses and employees are motivated by a desire to do better work. In the end a positive institution emerges that has avoided a loss of millions of dollars each year.