This lesson sounds over the top and cheesy, but give me the opportunity to explain.
I am sure that you have seen dogs like Jake before; as soon as I get home there is a huge wag of the tail, more jumping than I would like, and a desperate need to be patted. There is no doubt in my mind that he is happy to see me. Jake also has the advantage (or disadvantage?) of having a tail that completely reflects his mood – if the tail is wagging he is happy, wagging furiously and he is excited.
To state the obvious, we humans don’t have tails that can give away our mood. Often I work with team’s that struggle to understand each other, finding it difficult to read each others expressions, let alone their intent.
What I love about my dog Jake is no matter what type of day he has had, he always manages to cheer me up when I arrive home.
I think we can take a lot out of Jake’s demeanour and apply it to where we work. Over time, I have worked with several clients that struggle to deal with the negativity of staff; they criticize everything and the general mood of the business is difficult and unpleasant. It is the type of negativity that you can feel as an outsider to the business – it just feels wrong.
Positive attitudes can be beaten down in environments like this if they are not maintained and vigilant. A simple way is to greet people in your team in a positive manner. It may sound trite, but it is amazing how your own smile and positive attitude can have a direct impact on those people around you. Imagine a simple case of a Manager so absorbed in what he is doing that as he walked down the corridor, deep in thought, he ignores the people that he walked past. He wasn’t trying to be aloof or distant, but staff members he worked with (in this negative culture) could perceive that behaviour as being ignored.
Imagine if he had a tail like Jake, there would be no need to say anything. If his tail was wagging, people would assume that he was in a good mood and think nothing more of it. But he isn’t Jake, he doesn’t have a tail, and each individual he walks past feels like they are being ignored. Do it often and the whole team decide to ignore him – a negative culture will do that. You can see how this can spiral out of control. Sadly, in the past I have been the type of person who has exacerbated this attitude, expecting everyone to treat me well before I decided to treat them accordingly.
Negative cultures require us to break that cycle and treat everyone how we expect to be treated regardless of the impact. Imagine again my corridor walking manager, and instead of ignoring the behaviour or judging it, a staff member comes out with ‘Good morning Jenny, how is your day going?’ They might often know the answer, but they can break the lack of communication and the possible spiral it could cause. This is a very simple example – but it highlights how perception of communication and sending out what you want can have a great impact.
To paraphrase a quote that I read a few days ago ‘It is not the force of the rain in a single drop that created an indentation in stone, it is the persistent effort of many drops over many storms.’
I love this quote because it relates to people’s behaviour and negativity so well. A single effort will not change behaviour. Neither will several efforts. Many efforts over time build to become a habit, which in turn drives behaviour and attitude change. This is exactly what dealing with negativity requires – constant effort and a desire to change for the good. It is certainly not easy, sometimes the negative energy saps up the energy of good people and can drag them down. The question is ‘Is the negative behaviour something that you want to live with?’
In short, negative behaviour can be broken down with many simple acts of friendliness, kindness and trust over periods of time. Jake has taught me that consistent positive response can change my mood every time I come home.
Is your team filled with negative comments and behaviour?
Are you adding to the negativity or steering a positive path?
What have you done to lift the mood of your team?