“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
When someone asks what you do for a living, how do you respond? Is there excitement and enthusiasm in your voice? Or do you sound down, defeated, and disillusioned?
Too many people fall … and too many workplaces … fall into the second category. They’ve let the negativity of others get into them, and they begin to sink. Just like a battleship.
In good times, the battleship floats across the water, but if the water gets inside the battleship, it begins to sink.
Well, you don’t have to sink … and neither does your workplace … if you follow a few PREVENTATIVE or CORRECTIVE practices.
PREVENTATIVE PRACTICE #1: HIRE RIGHT.
As you all know, one bad apple can spoil the whole cart. But you also know it’s easier to get a bad apple (or bad employee) than get rid of one. So approach every hiring decision with the utmost discernment.
In particular, focus your energy on recruiting, selecting, and retaining people who are technically skilled AND emotionally competent. In fact, they had better have both characteristics or you’re bound to have a troubled workplace.
So when you’re in the position of having to hire someone, look for ANY signals that tell you the new job candidate may be a drag on the positive culture you’re trying to create. You cannot afford to hire those kinds of people … especially when times are already tough.
Recruiting expert Robert Half gives several examples of some of the more bizarre job candidates he’s come across. And each of their behaviors was a clue NOT to hire them.
**”Said if he was hired, he’d teach me ballroom dancing at no charge, and started demonstrating.”
**”Left his dry-cleaner tag on his jacket and said he wanted to show he was a clean individual.”
**”After a difficult question, she wanted to leave the room momentarily to meditate.”
**”Applicant walked in and inquired why was he here.”
**”Said that if I hired him, I’d soon learn to regret it.”
**”Arrived with a snake around her neck. Said she took her pet everywhere.”
**”Woman brought in a large shopping bag of canceled checks and thumbed through them during the interview.”
**”When asked about his loyalty, showed a tattoo of his girlfriend’s name.”
**”Applicant indicated that if he wasn’t hired, the future of the company would be jeopardized for confidential reasons.”
**”Took three cellular phone calls. Said she has a similar business on the side.”
**”She returned that afternoon asking if we could redo the entire interview.”
So hire slowly, wisely, and correctly.
PREVENTATIVE PRACTICE #2: PROTECT YOUR POSITIVE NORMS.
If your organization has established certain norms of respectful behavior, reinforce those norms.
If, for example, employees are expected to acknowledge every customer within 10 seconds of entering the store, make sure they do it. Or if you have outlawed negative talk about customers, call someone on his violation of the norm if he is trashing a customer.
Don’t let your negative people dismiss your positive cultural elements by saying, “That’s silly … or … That’s just plain stupid … or I’m too busy for all that nonsense.”
PREVENTATIVE PRACTICE #3: DISCOVER AND SHARE SUCCESS STORIES.
Everyone knows the gripes that go around the office. But you’re also doing a lot of things right. Look for examples of what you’re doing right.
In fact, charge everyone with the responsibility of looking for those stories of success and accomplishment. And then share a few of those stories at every meeting. Celebrate the positive.
PREVENTATIVE PRACTICE #4: SURFACE, HONOR, AND DEFUSE POTENTIAL NEGATIVITY.
No matter how positive, productive, and profitable your organization is, it is not perfect. There are problems and there will always be problems in your organization and every other organization.
Don’t ignore them. And don’t pretend they don’t exist. As best-selling author and psychologist Dr. Sidney Simon says, “The greatest danger in any relationship is to pretend not to know what we know.”
In other words, you can’t expect to bury the problems and have them somehow magically disappear. When you bury problems, you bury them alive, and the rate of resurrection is almost 100%.
It would be much wiser to have a place where people can share their concerns. Bring their concerns to the surface. And then let your people know it’s okay to feel what they feel. Take their feelings seriously. Listen intently. Do what you can do to address their concerns.
Now these first four practices are “preventative” in nature. In other words, they prevent negativity from getting into or taking over your workplace. But if the negativity is already there, and if you’re feeling some of it, you should take some of these CORRECTIVE measures.
CORRECTIVE MEASURE #1: NOTICE WHAT ZAPS YOUR ENERGY.
Get specific. Write down the specific tasks, interactions, or expectations that drain you. You might not feel supported by your boss or feel betrayed by a team mate who is not doing her share of the work.
CORRECTIVE MEASURE #2: CONQUER ONE ENERGY-ZAPPING ISSUE AT A TIME.
Brainstorm small immediate steps you can take to maintain or recapture your energy at work. And then baby-step it.
Start with a simple issue … where an easy victory is likely … such as greeting a particular grouch in your department each morning, rather than let him ignore and discount you.
Once you’ve built some confidence and skill in one area, move on to a more challenging issue — such as your boss giving you ten projects at once, with no sense of their priority.
CORRECTIVE MEASURE #3: GO FOR WHAT ENERGIZES YOU.
You probably like some tasks more than others. See if you can get more of those tasks assigned to you. And you probably like some coworkers more than others. See if you can work on more projects with those people.
And even if you can’t get more of the things that energize you, you can always fill your mind with positive, powerful sayings that will inspire you. You can even hang positive posters around your own personal work area. In fact, I’ve created more than 300 pages of positive sayings and posters in volumes I, II, and III of “The Encyclopedia of Success.”
CORRECTIVE MEASURE #4: REALIZE WHEN IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON.
Sometimes there is nothing you can do to change the situation. Nothing works, and your career stalls or even starts to go backwards.
When nothing works, don’t take it personally or blame others. Just make the decision to move on. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of people who do so do just fine.