As you work on building or renewing your new success habits for the New Year you’re likely looking for ways to help your team members or co-workers stay out of the swamp of negativity, cynicism, and fear.

A viewer of my December Thriving in Turbulent Times webcast sent me very positive feedback about how inspirational and useful the messages were for her. She also posed this question:

“I’m genuinely a positive person and quite a high achiever. This comes at a price. My attitude and behaviors often bring ridicule from co-workers who are consistently wallowing in the “Us vs. Them” swamp. These co-workers are so tightly banded, how do I go about breaking through this?

Her question is an excellent one that often comes up in our workshops and retreats. How to deal with negative co-workers is highly situational with no one-size-fits-all answers.

If you’re in similar circumstances, a basic and key step is getting team members or co-workers to see their wallowing and its negative consequences. Everyone needs to recognize and acknowledge that when we’re faced with personal or workplace changes and setbacks we can lead, follow, or wallow.

It can be very powerful to re-establish group language with humor and terms like “pity city,” “bitter bus,” “taming the E-mail Beast,” “dealing with moose on the table,” “C.R.A.P. glasses,” “reframing,” or “scab picking,” to help reframe and change perspectives. Using naming and re-focusing approaches like “Do I hear the bitter bus pulling up outside,” “lets get out of pity city and move forward,” or “we’ve overcome problems like this before let’s figure out how to do it again” can help shift group norms from wallowing to leading.

This has successfully been done by:

• Circulating articles, blogs, webcast or video links, book excerpts, or books.
• Showing video, audio, or webinar clips at meetings or one-on-one and inviting comments on how to apply these to the team or workplace (“I saw this great piece the other day that I think applies to some of our problems with….”).
• Gently challenging and reframing wallowing conversations toward brainstorming ways out of the swamp.
• Individual recognition or group celebration of positive progress and results. Link those to how leading behaviors (rather than following our wallowing) made the difference.
• Encouraging healthy ways to vent frustrations and then move on (“let’s have a 10 minute pity party on how stupid this change is or what those idiots just did to us again…”).
• When a co-worker is doing a “grump dump” on you or the group, you might ask “are you just venting right now or are you looking for ideas on how to deal with that problem?”

A key issue and sometimes a big challenge is staying positive and leading by your own example. For your own ongoing development and to swing group momentum from wallowing to leading you might develop or join a network of colleagues interested in personal growth. This can be a powerful source of learning from others’ experiences. It’s also a great way for you to reflect on your own experiences and articulate your improvement plans. A group (even just two of you) that meets regularly is an excellent forum for making public declarations or even “contracts” of your personal improvement plans. This approach makes it much harder to back away from forming the tough new habits you know you need to develop.

Please post your experiences, observations, and suggestions below.

Let’s Connect With LinkedIn

I am steadily increasing my use of LinkedIn to reconnect with so many past Clients, workshop participants, or readers I’ve lost touch with over the years and tap into interesting group discussions on personal, team, and organizational leadership. I’ve been updating and adding to my LinkedIn profile and utilizing it’s growing number of features such as connecting to my blog and Tweeter feeds through my profile’s Status Update. I plan to add some of my presentation slides to SlideShare and use other features the site is now adding regularly.

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