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Creating a Culture That People Don’t Want to Leave

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Do you have a Negative Nancy (NN) or Toxic Tim (TT) that you’re keeping longer than you should? Would you let them go if you weren’t so short staffed? One negative or toxic teammate infiltrates the whole company, and that negativity spreads throughout, affecting everyone.

Think of it like this: You attend a meeting that NN was in. When you leave, you approach Positive Polly and share with Positive Polly, “It’s so frustrating dealing with NN. Why is she still here? All we do is constantly listen to her babble about her unhappiness.”

Before you know it, you’ve become a Negative Nancy, and Positive Polly sees the impact that the original NN has made on you and the team. It only takes one person thinking negatively to bring the whole environment, culture, and team down. To help you, Positive Polly shares the following.

You have 60,000 thoughts a day and 80% of them are negative. These come in the form of doubt, worry, and stress, and they are linked to poor attitudes, declining engagement, and poor performance.

Most people think they are positive and optimistic, yet negativity shows, and they don’t recognize it. To compound the problem, 95% of your thoughts are repetitive. So, all of the negative thoughts keep getting repeated, impacting how you show up, speak out, lead, and live.

Your thoughts are the fundamental foundation of everything you do and everything you don’t do, yet oftentimes you don’t think about them. When was the last time you thought about what you thought about?

If you’re like most people, you think the same way you’ve always thought, resulting in the same behaviors, actions, and results. If you want to change relationships, communication, interactions, or your confidence, you must first change how you think. Once you change that, then everything else will change as well.

Here is a five-step process to help you change your thoughts to invoke different actions, behaviors, and results and to develop a positive work environment.

1. Recognize Your Thoughts

There’s an exercise to help you very specifically identify your negative thoughts. It’s called the “stand up/sit down” exercise. (Try alternatives, such as raising a hand in a Zoom call if people are virtual or are members of the disabled community.) This is a great exercise to do as a team.

Have someone read a set of statements. For every statement you agree with, you will move your body. Everyone starts in a standing position. For example, if the first statement is, “If you’ve ever thought you’re not smart enough,” and you agree, you’ll sit down. If you disagree with the statement, you’ll remain as you were.

If the next statement is, “If you’ve ever thought you don’t have enough time,” and you agree, you’ll move (either stand up or sit down depending on what you did for the first statement).

This repeats for every statement read; there should be about 15 statements read in total. During this activity, you can expect to hear laughter from your group members as they are moving.

It will also show that many of your team members have had these kinds of thoughts, which shows that negative thinking arises without people consciously knowing it.

You probably have a lot more negative thoughts than you believed.

2. Write Them Down

Something happens in your brain when you write things down. They tend to become real, and you remember them more. So, after you’ve identified your negative thoughts, write them down. In response, you will become more mindful when they arise in the future. Follow the rest of these steps with just one of your negative thoughts.

Once you have mastered one, work on another. (You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or burn yourself out on doing too many at once.)

3. Identify Your Triggers

What are your triggers for your negative thinking? Triggers can be a place, situation, mood, experience, or thing. If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone and walked away saying to yourself, “Why do I even bother?” then you also know that a trigger can be a person, too. (And many times, it is a person.)

Write down all of your triggers when it comes to the negative thought you identified in Step 2. When you’re aware of your triggers, you can be on the lookout for them. When they come up, as they will, you are armed to stop the negative thoughts from following.

4. Reframe the Thought

There are two ways to reframe your negative thoughts.

First, you can say the opposite of the negative statement. Instead of saying, “I’m not a good enough leader,” you can say, “I’m an awesome leader.”

The second way is to ask questions. For instance, ask yourself, “What courses do I need to take to become a better leader, what leadership book should I read to improve my leadership skills, or who can mentor me into being a better leader?”

Your brain is constantly talking to you. If you say you’re not a good enough leader, your brain will validate it with all the ways that it’s true. If you say you’re an awesome leader, your brain will validate it with all the ways that it is true. So, listening to the positive part of your brain will make all the difference in your work and your home lives.

5. Take Action

Once you have your reframing options, pick one to take action on. Nothing changes until you take action on it.

Small actions make a huge difference. If you want to know the best leadership book to read, you may initially think you do not know any, but your brain can solve that dilemma. It’ll reply with ideas to look up leadership books on Google, put a post on Facebook asking your friends for their recommendations, or look up Amazon book reviews.

After that, it’ll be time to decide which action you will take. In this instance, that would be which book to order, and then go order it. Small, consistent action is key to eradicating negative thinking.

Mindset Mastery

The more you work through this process, the more positive thoughts you will have. You’ll soon recognize negative thoughts in others and will be able to help them master their own mindset.

You’ll become the Positive Polly and help develop a positive work environment that no one wants to leave.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the May 2024 print issue of CoatingsPro Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author

Jessica Rector, MBA, is the author of the #1 best-selling book, Blaze Your Brain to Extinguish Burnout, as well as nine other books. She helps organizations, leaders, and teams say, “yes” to eradicate burnout and enhance mental health. As a burnout trailblazer, her research is used in her consulting and speaking, and it is often shared on her podcast, “The Say Yes Experience.”

For more information, contact: Jessica Rector,

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