3 Ways Leaders Can Stop Perpetuating a Highly Negative Workplace Culture

Negative leaders can mean negative culture, so don’t be like Eeyore!

Is your work culture negative, depressing, and gloomy? Have you had the feeling others may feel that way?

If you’re a leader within your organization, look no further than the closest mirror because you could be perpetuating a toxic culture.

I call it the “Eeyore Effect.” I’ve seen this discussed in reference to team dynamics but not regarding leadership.

The problem with depressed, negative leaders

Eeyore, the Winnie-the-Pooh character, is known for his distinctive depressed and negative persona. Eeyore has a “Thanks for noticin’ me” and “Ohhh-kayyy” attitude. No employee wants to feel like their leader is always down and critical and treats them in a caustic or dismissive way.

Depressed and negative leaders who are often down, or lead with the negative and don’t compliment their people, come off as disingenuous and can be exhausting to work for. This behavior can cause lack of innovation, poor processes, and a toxic work culture.

These things lead to low engagement, low productivity and bad customer service.

If you’re a leader and your culture is negative, it is negative because you play a role in making it negative. It’s a vicious cycle that will keep repeating itself unless you promote a more high performing culture where employees feel valued, heard, and appreciated.

Before you just say “Ohhh-kayyy,” – take a look at these three (3) tips to help you be a more positive leader and stop perpetuating a toxic work culture.

1. Be honest

People want honesty. They want transparency.

It’s easy to be honest when you have good news to share, but it’s often tougher when you have bad news to share. If you need to share information with employees that may not be the happiest news, try an appreciative spin.

For example, instead of saying — “The company is downsizing and I’m going to be sending emails to those of you we need to terminate.”

Try saying this —  “I want to thank you all for your hard work and efforts. Unfortunately I received some unsettling news today that I need to share. The company is downsizing and I’m going to have to reduce the headcount of our department. Determining who to let go is not an easy decision and I welcome the opportunity to answer any questions or address any concerns.”

Part of being a great leader is the ability be honest and transparent with your employees in a direct but not hurtful way.

2. Be positive

Always focusing on the negative or how someone missed the mark is never going to make things better.

Could you imagine going to work every day just to have all of your flaws pointed out daily? Imagine how you’d feel. So, be positive and give praise for the things your people do right or do above and beyond.

For example, instead of immediately jumping to a critique of a work product by saying, “You know this is the wrong template and I don’t see all the changes I asked for either.”

Try leading with a genuine positive comment by saying…

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“I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into this. It shows great creativity. I did notice it is in the wrong template and doesn’t include all the changes I made. If you could update with those changes as well I’d appreciate it. Again, great job.”

Part of being a great leader is the ability to communicate with your employees in an encouraging and appreciative way.

3. Be constructive

Everyone needs feedback to learn and grow. Most employees are open to feedback, but that doesn’t mean they want constant criticism.

Be cognizant of your delivery and tone when offering feedback – and understand that feedback is not a critique. There is a productive way and an unproductive way to give feedback.

Make feedback constructive. It’s more about how you say it rather than what you say.

Instead of saying — “I need to talk you. I’m not happy with the way you spoke about our stakeholders in that meeting.

Try saying this: “In an effort to help us all be more successful, I would like to share with you some observations regarding the way you spoke about our stakeholders in our meeting.”

Part of being a great leader is the ability to deliver feedback to your employees in  a constructive and engaging way that helps them learn and grow.

Performance doesn’t happen on its own

These are three (3) easy tips that will help you lead less like Eeyore and prevent a toxic work culture.  If you think high performance just happens on its own, you’re mistaken.

They call it leadership because leaders lead by example.

This was originally published on the Tolero Think Tank blog.

Scott Span, MSOD, is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions, an Organization Improvement & Strategy firm. He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable -- organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business. 

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