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How to retain a positive culture at work

Who wants to work in a negative atmosphere? No one!

The corporate world encourages a positive workplace culture. But a positive atmosphere does not mean there are roses, lollipops, and sunshine everywhere. Whilst problems do arise in PR budgets, frameworks, and plans, it’s your day-to-day interactions with others that will either create a negative atmosphere or a positive one.

If there is a negative atmosphere at work, in my experience, we tend to blame others (I know I can!). We want them to change, yet we don’t have control over others’ behaviour, no matter how much we think we do. It’s better to focus your energy on what you can do to create a positive atmosphere.

Here are five tips that can help:

Avoid positive spin

You’ll often hear people saying, “Let’s be positive”. But being “positive” won’t make questions and concerns go away. Putting a positive spin on a negative situation is not taking a positive approach. 

When you take a positive approach, you’re actually stepping up and taking action to create a positive atmosphere. It means you are willing to deal with the negative.

Sometimes, you do have to get into the negative to get out of it. Don’t insist everyone put their concerns away. In a meeting, you can have a timed discussion of the negative aspects to get them on the table, and then move into positive action while acknowledging that the negative won’t necessarily go away at this point.

Ground yourself in facts whilst balancing the emotional aspect

If you find yourself or your colleagues slipping into the negative, ask one of these questions:

  • Is there an alternative explanation as to why this happened?
  • What evidence is there to support this idea?
  • Does doing this really mean that will happen? Or could something better happen?

People are allowed to (and likely will) feel emotional over change, but decisions need to be based on facts combined with the understanding of the emotional impact that might create a negative atmosphere. Address your colleagues’ concerns with fact-based answers.

Be prepared to be unprepared

Sometimes you can’t predict what the future holds, and that uncertainty can foster a negative atmosphere at work. Tell people what will stay the same and what will change, as well as what people will have control over and what they won’t. Many times, there are no answers and we need to prepare for the unknown. Work at embracing ambiguity!

Don’t label

Resist the temptation to label a sceptical team member as “being negative”. Oftentimes, people just need to get their questions answered to move to a positive approach. Putting a label on people is no way to gain their support and trust, shuts down other team members, and does not create a positive atmosphere. (I’m not referring to the constant complainers here! That becomes a performance issue.) Be supportive and listen with an open mind.

Remove the word should from your vocabulary

“Should” creates blame of yourself or others about what happened in the past. Use “could” instead, it creates possibility, which in turns fosters a positive atmosphere: “You could have done something and you didn't. So what? Let's look what you could do next time.“  

Written by Gregg Brown, change management specialist

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