9 Ways To Be A Positive Force In A Negative Workplace

My German Father-in-law would call trying to fix this negative workplace, Furzen gegen den Donner, farting against thunder. I’ve got to admit, the description I got on the other end of the phone was pretty bad: little to no recognition, development, or teamwork combined with long hours, limited resources, lots of finger-pointing, and the uncertainty of a new acquisition and consolidation.

When my caller tried to get a hold of a list of the company values, no one seemed to know where to find them. The veterans knew they existed, somewhere they were as opaque as the vacation policy no one took seriously.

Leaders were fleeing this negative workplace every day. And yet this LGL member was staying, and pulling people together to improve the scene (which had nothing to do with his day job). Why?

“I used to feel like I needed to get out of here, but now I’m so excited to be part of the solution. it’s fulfilling to see progress. I know I may lose my job in a year or so, but for now this feels like important work.”

Important work indeed. The world needs people who dive deeper to change a negative workforce. It’s far easier to run away. Here’s some tips that can help. Please add yours to the list.

How To Be A Positive Force In A Negative Workplace

  1. Ask Why They Work – In this negative environment, this may seem obvious: “for the pay check, stupid”. But take it a step further. Do they work to support their sick mom? To pay back student loans? To save for their children’s education? Because they enjoy helping customers? Because? Reconnecting to the purpose of work can help make the smaller annoyances less frustrating.
  2. Call It What It Is – When you see negative thinking or actions, talk to the person privately to call it out – particularly if other leaders are involved. When negative attitudes and talk are all around, it’s tempting to ignore it. Raise the bar and change the conversation.
  3. Rise Above The Drama – Refuse to get sucked into the rumors and gossip. Respond to your team’s concerns with transparency and candor. Be the one people know they can trust for a straight answer.
  4. Find Kindred Spirits – The truth is not everyone is negative, although it can feel that way at times. Look around and find other folks trying to change the scene for the better. There’s strength numbers.
  5. Create A Cultural Oasis – It’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to fix the overall culture. Start with your own team and do what you can to make it feel better to come to work. See: BYOO: Build Your Own Cultural Oasis.
  6. Find Reasons To Celebrate – With all the negativity, it’s easy to over look the good. Go out of your way to recognize and celebrate small wins. Substitute weak phrases like no problem with more enthusiastic recognition power words.
  7. See Barriers As A Challenge – Encourage your team to embrace the problems they are seeing as challenges to learn and grow from. Recapping learning along the way helps them feel a sense of positive momentum even during the most challenging times.
  8. Laugh More – I had one colleague who would respond to the most ridiculous political nonsense by reminding us it’s all comedy. Stepping back and recognizing how ridiculous some behavior is creates a healthy distance from which to respond more appropriately.
  9. Hold Deeper Developmental Conversations – In periods of uncertainty, people yearn for a sense of control and connection. Take your developmental conversations to the next level. Ask your team and your peers about their hopes and dreams, what motivates them and what scares them. Show up as a real human being caring about other real human beings.

Transitions: My First Week As An Entrepreneur

As my regulars know, I’ve recently left my job as a Verizon Wireless executive to pursue my entrepreneurial dream. I promise that my blog will continue to be about ways to support you.

With that said, I’ve received so many wonderful notes and lots of questions about what’s next as an entrepreneur, that I figured there were others who were curious, but not asking. I imagine my own angst can be helpful to others in the midst of such transitions. I would love to hear your stories.

Q&A On Early Transitions

Question: What’s your biggest surprise one week in?
Answer: My new boss is a handful.

Her heart’s in the right place, but she’s hard to keep up with. Her passion is contagious, but sometimes it just wears me out. I think sometimes she forgets we’re just a small team. I’ve tried to explain, but she’s got this new entrepreneurial spirit thing going. Not sure she’s listening. You see, the tricky part is, my new boss is me. I’ve become the boss I wish I had, and I’m swimming in imperfection.

I suddenly have a new realization of what it must have been like to work on my teams all these years. I’m having flashbacks to what one of my leaders said after working with me in a new gig for a few weeks. Yikes, we’ve been running so hard, my watch is spinning around on my wrist from all the weight I’ve lost.

Back then, I took it as a joke and a compliment. We were having fun and had great momentum. But maybe, this sweet Southern gentleman was also kindly trying to tell me to slow down, that I was creating a cloud dust of deliverables that were hard to keep up with.

A week in to being my own boss, I’m experiencing what my own teams have felt from me passion, impatience, extreme focus on results, and lots of work.

It’s a humbling exercise to be the visionary and the one who must execute. I’ve got more to-dos than I can possibly do.

Question: Did you leave Verizon because you hit a glass ceiling?
Answer: No.

Verizon leadership goes out of their way to develop and promote women. I have been surrounded by amazing women and men mentors and examples over the years, and continue to have these supportive people in my life. I left from the right box on the grid.

If I hit a ceiling, it can better be described as an authenticity ceiling of my own making. I have very strong leadership values which I stick to. It became more important for me to lead in the way that I felt most compelled to lead than to organize my leadership around what would best position me for the next level.

Question: Aren’t you scared?
Answer: Of course.

Entrepreneurship is highly personal. There’s no one to blame but me. Every swing and a miss, makes me sad. But the base hits are worth it. But besides all that, it came to a point that I was more frightened of the consequences of not doing what I felt most called to do.

I don’t want to leave this world contributing less than I should. I resonate with Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on innovation. It’s starting to feel that I’m supposed to be responding to things happening through me. That’s hard to ignore.

Question: What are your first steps?
Answer: Head clearing, strategic planning, website/video development, building on partnerships, and book launching.

Honestly, I need some unwinding. I’m mixing in some yoga and kickboxing with the strategic planning and other work. I am resisting the urge to do too much doing until my priorities and strategy are solid. With that said, I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the leadership media crowd in support of my book launch.

I’m spending a lot of time in interviews, podcasts, and other media responses. That’s been a BLAST. P.S. If you’ve enjoyed the book, I would love to have you write a short review on Amazon with all the media commotion, we could use some help in the basics.

I’m also delighted to be collaborating with a highly talented group of management consultants in a group called Agamie, each of us bringing different areas of expertise. We have some exciting possibilities brewing.

Question: What’s the focus of your new company?
Answer: Helping companies achieve transformational results by building rock-solid front-line leadership teams.

The new website coming in early May will share the whole story stay tuned.

Question: Do you have other books in the works?
Answer: Yes.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss is tapas. It will be an exciting 2 years.

Question: Will Let’s Grow Leaders stay the same interactive community?
Answer: You bet!

Only stronger. We have many new subscribers, and more people joining the conversation. Amen. If you’ve never shared a comment, join the fun. It’s much more exciting to be involved.