by Kevin Eikenberry, co-founder The Remote Leadership Institute
Even before the current COVID-19 crisis, leaders often asked me how to combat negative attitudes on their teams. These were mostly teams that worked together in the same location and so they were concerned about the infectious nature of negative attitudes. Now, with all the anxiety we’re all feeling about the day-to-day news going on around us, is it any wonder that some people are displaying some negative behaviors?
The fact is, negativity is contagious, even when we are practicing social distancing.
Make it about behavior, not attitude.
Notice the words you just read: behavior not attitude. The problem you’re having is with the behaviors – what people are doing. Maybe they have a negative attitude, but that is a perception – a motivation you’re assigning to these behaviors. If you approach your team member looking to create an “attitude adjustment,” you probably aren’t going to get very far.
Behaviors, on the other hand, are observable. If you approach someone by describing the behavior and the impact of that behavior, you’re much more likely to get their attention and understanding – which is required before you can influence them to change.
So, rather than making it your goal to “cheer up” that negative person, instead focus on how you can make them aware of how they’re behaving and how it’s affecting the team as a whole.
You won’t succeed with everybody.
Negative behaviors, particularly in crisis situations, are often long-standing, entrenched habits. It may not even be the current crisis that’s the cause of their negative behaviors and responses. While you are focused on behaviors, recognize that you may well be dealing with habits. Yes people can and do change habits, but not likely because you mention it once and expect things to change with a snap of your fingers.
Your positive mindset is the antibody.
Researchers are working hard to develop antibodies that can stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Your positive attitude (and behaviors) are powerful antibodies against negative behaviors. Your position as a leader may give you an influential platform. And while you can’t “make” people happy by handing down an order, your position means that people will notice and adjust based on your example. The best way for you to combat negativity is to be intentionally positive yourself.
Even when things return to “normal” there will be more remote work than ever before. If you want to be a more effective leader in that remote setting, consider the Remote Leadership Certificate Series. We’ve got a new live remote group starting soon as well as an on-demand version.