Transcending Negative Emotions to Create Positive Cultures

Creating a positive culture begins with how we interact with one another.  In organizations there are many moments of frustration.  These lead to self-interested thoughts, fault-finding, blame, and abusive acts.  Such acts become patterned and expected.  The culture turns negative.  It becomes difficult to engage in positive conversations and create patterns of collaborative contribution.  One path to positive organizing is training people to recognize their negative, internal responses and choose to alter them.   A friend has been working on this skill and he shared a simple but powerful example.

A fast-moving work assignment came into my team’s queue, and I assumed my colleague would pick it up.  A couple hours passed, and I noticed she came online and started working, but she didn’t grab the assignment.  The deadline was getting nearer and nearer so I called her.  She didn’t pick up.  I called the other number I had for her.  No answer. 

I started to write an email to her, but I realized I was feeling very anxious, and a while back I made a commitment to myself to be careful not to send emails when I feel emotionally upset.  Re-reading my draft, I could see I made a lot of assumptions.  I erased what I wrote and instead just said what I knew and expressed concern for her: I haven’t heard from you and this assignment needs to be done so I’m going to do it.  Please contact me as soon as possible so I know you’re okay.

Then I took a couple of deep breaths and moved as quickly as I could to do the necessary.  I learned about the issue I had to write about from articles online and wrote a draft response and sent it to our resident experts for their edits. 

About 30 minutes later, my colleague wrote back and explained what happened: when she first signed on, she had an important phone meeting and didn’t see the assignment.  She was grateful for my help and said she would take it over from there and complete the task.

As I reflect on that experience, I see a couple things I want to remember and repeat in the future.  Noticing my emotional state and recognizing the negative influence it was having on my message, I stopped myself and re-wrote the message. 


  • When is the last time you reacted to an event at work with self-interested thoughts, fault-finding, blame, and abusive responses?
  • When is the last time someone responded to you in this way?
  • What do these response do to the collective capacity to collaboratively contribute?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

2 comments on “Transcending Negative Emotions to Create Positive Cultures

  1. Bob, this has also been a concern for me and I also have trained myself to take a breath and not write from emotion. Instead I inquire why the job has not been approved or why a person is not responding. At this time of COVID and working from home, the assumption can be that the person is logging on but not really doing their job. The reality could be that the kids may be interrupting, a spouse may be talking to them (which can be annoying when they know you are working-another thing to respond after processing the emotion), or could be on a conference call. I try hard to reread any correspondence before sending it and try hard to add a little ‘sweetness’ so the person I am trying to communicate with does not feel like I am blaming, fault-finding, or annoyed with them. I just really need an answer. Thanks for reminding us to be more compassionate during this time.

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