Eden Spodek

How to Keep a Positive Culture When News is Negative

By: Eden Spodek | November 14, 2018 | 
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positive culture in the workplaceThe Tree of Life Massacre was the last straw.

After what felt like one tragic news story after another, I broke down.

Tears ran down my face during the ‘minute of silence’ tribute at that evening’s Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game.

Later, several friends (and even their grown children) said they were taking social media breaks because they just couldn’t take the relentless stream of bad news any longer.

It became abundantly clear people were exhausted. That what we were all feeling wasn’t just dwindling daylight hours and the cold weather blues.

So I wanted to do something—anything—to try and soothe some of the sadness around me.

Positive Culture: It’s OK to Do Regular Sanity Checks

I knew that if my weekend was this bad emotionally, chances are my team was feeling the same.

So as I was planning out the agenda for our biweekly team meeting, I wrote “BE KIND” in big block letters.

My team and I chatted briefly.

And I did the “boss” thing—trying to boost morale while reminding everyone to be kind to each other, mindful of stress levels, etc.

I told them to remember that (believe it or not!) clients are people too, and probably just as emotionally exhausted as we were.

And then something totally unexpected happened.

A team member told us her cousin works for the Pittsburgh Police Department, and was among those first on the scene at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

He was physically unharmed but witnessed the horror, and ultimately saved more lives from being lost.

Needless to say, we were all speechless.

We had one team member in pain who could benefit from some human kindness.

Had we not taken the time to address the recent tragedy and begin our meeting with a sanity check, none of us would have known our friend had been so close to such a tragedy.

Positive Culture: Sometimes it’s as Simple as Being Kind

Every Tuesday in my Facebook group for small business owners, I publish a “Tip Tuesday” post.

I usually post something about how to grow your business online.

But instead, I decided to take a different approach and ask members this question:

How do you keep morale high when there’s so much bad news?

There were two comments which stood out to me.

Alison Garwood-Jones, no stranger to Spin Sucks, boils it down to simple kindness.

She sends out “digital notes to humanity.” And she makes a concerted effort to make eye contact and smile at passersby wherever she goes.

Another member, Priya Bates, shared this sage advice:

Nothing beats a message from the heart from a leader or manager. Acknowledge the incident. Acknowledge feelings.

Tell people it’s okay to feel the way they do. Remind them of the organization’s values and how they come to life through people.

Authenticity is key… versus corporate rhetoric. It’s also a good time to ask managers to be visible and walk around too. Ask people how they feel, and listen.

Be visible. Be kind. And listen.

There are many reasons why people may be feeling the blues this time of year.

For some, it’s bad weather or the lack of sunlight.

For others, it’s the stress of running a business and meeting business goals—something familiar to all of us agency owners.

Or, it’s all of the above, PLUS what sometimes feels like the never-ending bombardment of really horrible news.

So let’s take a moment and talk about a few ways you can help yourself, and your agency, through rocky times.

Be Kind

Bring empathy and kindness to the workplace. It’s simple, really.

Ask your team and colleagues how they’re feeling.

Be mindful of clients or colleagues who may be having a bad day. Treat those around you with some TLC.

Maybe you can surprise and delight team members with notes or small gifts, if possible.

Talk and Listen

When you’re actively trying to be kind, focus on being present for the person you’re speaking with.

We’re all busy. I get it.

But sometimes a person just needs to connect with another human being and be listened to.

Make yourself available for a check-in periodically–especially if you run a virtual company as I do.

Usually, a quick chat, a few face-to-face laughs, can make the news of the day easier to take—for all of us.

Recognize the Importance of Self-Care

Make this part of your agency ethos.

“Me time” helps everyone refresh, rejuvenate, and clear their mind—a much-needed exercise especially in times like these.

At our agency, team members know they can be honest about when they need a little self-care…something we value highly.

I’m the first to admit I go for manicures every two weeks. But, I’m still available to clients and my team via phone, email, and Slack.

I even take Pilates classes three times a week. Another team member goes bowling one morning a week, and a couple of others attend all their children’s school events.

Heck, last week I signed off for our newest team member to have a day at the spa.

And I post a self-care reminder every Saturday in our Facebook group which always receives a lot of positive engagement.

Positive Culture: Lead by Example

Unfortunately, bad news doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

If it’s getting to you and you’re feeling down, chances are your work teams and clients may feel the same way.

Use these tips to help keep team morale up and productivity on track. Your employees will appreciate your efforts towards positive culture, and the office will be a much happier place to work.

How do you manage your workplace so all this bad news doesn’t have a negative impact on work and productivity? How do you foster a positive culture in your office or among your team? Please share in the comments.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

About Eden Spodek


Eden Spodek is a founder & CEO of Spodek & Co., an integrated communications firm. Eden has a unique perspective on emerging media and more than 25 years’ experience in communications. She’s happiest helping colleagues, clients and students be a little disruptive. She’s outspoken about the importance of building online engagement and targeted relationships, one influencer at a time. Eden is based in Toronto, Canada and can be found on many places online.

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