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Taming toxicity: reversing negativity in the workplace.

Are you a positive person? Do you know how to use being positive to reverse the negativity in your work environment?

These and other questions were addressed by Jo Manion at the recent OONE Spring meeting. Approximately 75 Nurse Managers, Directors and Administrators were in attendance at this fun, challenging, fast-paced one day conference. The purpose of this article is to share some of the strategies we learned about being positive and reversing negativity in our own work environments.

As leaders, how many times have we said, "Why can't we all just get along"? Jo Manion addressed the following pillars as components of a healthy relationship.


This essential element can be considered the foundation of developing an effective relationship . Trust reflects a sense of safety and authenticity within an individual. In a healthy relationship, trust involves relying on each other with an equal amount of give and take Trust may not come easy and is established over time through honesty Mending broken trust involves acknowledging it, apologizing and making amends.


A healthy relationship includes mutual respect by discovering what each individual can contribute and share in the relationship Active listening, attempting to understand ones point of view, and valuing ones worth demonstrates respect. If respect is absent from the relationship autonomy, values, and goals may be sacrificed.


Support is an ingredient that will repeatedly surface in good relationships. It should be offered consistently and unconditionally During difficult times it is even more valuable In many instances when things go wrong or a mistake is made, support is withdrawn Offering support strengthens weaknesses and recognizes shared accountability for outcomes.


Communicating truthfully and openly about our thoughts, ideas and feelings is an equally important pillar in developing healthy relationships. In addition to communicating with our words, we also communicate our attitudes, beliefs, values and priorities. This is reflected through our daily behaviors and also through non-verbal communication, such as gestures, facial expressions and covert and overt affronts Reflective listening and providing direct feedback are critical elements in developing good communication skills.

Strength-based Leadership heralds the ability to "begin each day with a full cup." One cannot fall in love with your work unless you come with a full cup Manion asserts that strengths-based leadership encompasses knowing ones strengths--and being able to call on the right strength at the right time. Use 'strengths spotting' to capitalize on a co-worker's strengths and positive capabilities Focus on strengths is more effective than a focus on Deficiencies. When the focus remains on strengths there is a noticeable acceleration in happiness, gratitude, optimism and creativity Manion's assertion. ... "A bird sings because it has a song" could be a vision statement for leadership.

Throughout the presentation Manion's powerful use of attributes ring true for modeling day to day leadership strategies. Manion's "It's not the cards that you're deal, It's how you play them" depicts the leader's powerful tool in modeling optimism in the workplace. Teach and use optimistic thinking in the work place to:

* Address problems properly

* Assist pessimistic staff to see options and solutions

* Address and eliminate toxic negativity

* Develop a culture that welcome people who have identified a problem--and expects they will also suggest a solution!

The leader's use of a proactive coaching approach will turn a negative, pessimistic thinking work environment to one that embraces and celebrates future-oriented thinking Coaching for optimism and proactivity will:

* Help others see another possible outcome

* Identify the first step in changing a situation

* Actively deal with problems instead of giving up

Manion challenged leaders to utilize positive leadership interventions that will turn the tide of negativity in the workplace Behaviors that perpetuate negativity such as nonverbal innuendos, undermining behaviors, sabotage, infighting, scapegoating, and backstabbing require leaders to deliver critical feedback and increase your positivity/negativity ratios and hold profession staff RNs to the same level of accountability for positive relationships Manion refers to this as "decreasing the heart wrenching negativity and increasing the heartfelt positivity in our work environments."

In closing Manion's final thought was a very short but profound challenge: "Acting as if......" The future is ours to decide--To Act As If....!?

Teresa Gonsoulin, MS, RN; Letha Grellner, MS, RN
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Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gonsoulin, Teresa
Publication:Oklahoma Nurse
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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