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8 Team Building Skills For Uprooting Negativity Kudzu

Posted on August 17, 2011 by Leslie Dickson


Negativity and pessimism can creep into organizations like thatkudzu vine you see gobbling up trees all over the southern US. First, there are just a few tendrils, but in a matter of months they’re choking out the sunlight.  Tough economic times and the workplace changes they bring are “fertilizer” for the kudzu of negativity.  And, like kudzu, it’s not easy to get rid of.  But if your aim is lower staff turnover, higher productivity and reduced absenteeism, here are 8 VoicePro® communication skills tips to help bring your workplace back to the light.

  1. Check your own habits first.   Are you grumbling at the water cooler?  Gossiping about office politics?   Complaining about new directives? It’s time to lead by example.
  2. Change the conversation.  Some negativity is just a guilty pleasure that’s a bad habit – like smoking or gorging on Twinkies.  See if you can rechannel the energy.   When the group is complaining about someone, try mentioning a recent accomplishment of the person.  People griping about a short deadline? Remind them of a customer’s praise for “coming through” in a tight situation.
  3. Constructive criticism – or sniping?   “Your report wasn’t very thorough” is sniping.  Constructive criticism includes something positive and an actionable change: “Your report included some good information, but it needs additional detail on….”  And remember to provide praise and positive reinforcement when it’s earned.
  4. Listen hard to real complaints.  That’s one of the most insidious things about negativity.  Real problems get lost in the noise.  Listening skills are key to good communications.  Listen actively, reflect empathy, respond with understanding, and, if possible, take action to change
  5. Attack problems, not people.  Assigning blame wastes time that could go toward developing solutions.  Gently, but decisively, turn meeting conversations toward positive action.
  6. Create the Complaint Deadline.  Sometimes people need to get frustration out of their system before they can move ahead.  That’s fine, but setting a Complaint Deadline helps people move on.  A colleague in advertising managed a team that often had to deal with making major revisions to work it loved, frequently on very short deadlines.  He happily participated in 10 minutes of grumbling, but then changed the focus, “Funeral’s over.  How are we going to fix this?”
  7. Have a personal meeting with negative people.  If one or two people are fueling your problem, talk it out.  Be ready to share specific instances of behavior, not just your opinion (see #3 above).  Explain your concern about the impact negativity is having on the organization.  Ask some open-ended questions and listen hard (see #4 above).  If there’s an organizational problem, address it.  If it’s just negativity kudzu, talk about rethinking it.
  8. Spend as much time celebrating success as you do mourning failure.  Be public in your praise of a job well done.  Send thank-you emails to contributors.  Share positive feedback from customers and higher ups, and recount goals achieved and projects completed.

You’ll be amazed at the change you can see in a relatively short time.  Then keep it up! Be vigilant in weeding out your kudzu – new shoots of negativity can sprout from the buried roots.  Your tools?  A positive outlook, a can-do attitude and an appreciation of success your tools.

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