Nix Your Negativity: A Guide for Better Working Conditions | Handel Group

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Nix Your Negativity: A Guide for Better Working Conditions

We all have negative traits (some more than others!) and certain circumstances at work can make them arise. Whether it’s when we’re stressed, worried, overwhelmed, or, the new-age favorite, when Mercury is in retrograde, bad behavior can emerge to bite us in the butt. Right? Except, no matter what, no matter how warranted it feels in the moment, our bad behaviors never leave us proud of ourselves.

Righteous? Check. Justified? Check. Proud? No.

What would be possible, if by the end of 2018, you had your bad behaviors under new management? Wouldn’t you have a totally different experience at work? Wouldn’t you be more impressed with yourself? Wouldn’t it be worth it? Wouldn’t you be proud?  

Check. Check. And … CHECK.

For over thirty years now, I’ve been coaching people and, as you can imagine, I’ve seen some impressively bad behaviors in the workplace. The first step to changing a trait gone rogue is to recognize it.  

See if any of these popular, negative traits sound hauntingly (or honestly) familiar:

1) The Critic

You are critical with others and yourself. You can justify being short (and sometimes loud!) in public with other people. Many people seem scared of you, except for the ones you like and/or the ones who are like you. You rarely find the time to acknowledge yourself or a colleague/subordinate’s work.

2) The Micro Manager

You need what you need, when you need it. You are constantly checking up on people to ensure they are getting their job done. People don’t feel very empowered or trusted by you. Quite possibly, it’s because they are not.  

3) The Lone Ranger

More than likely, you are the boss. You consider yourself to be the best at everything that has to get done in your department/division. You often say to yourself, “let me do it, it’ll be quicker.” Instead of training people, you get stuck over-working and doing the heavy lifting for others.

4) The Justified Defender

You are an explainer. Everything that doesn’t get done is because of circumstances to which you can readily point. You walk around feeling unappreciated and victimized.

5) The Gauge

You are always gauging the pecking order: who is better, equal to, or worse than you. You can’t hide your attitude and it creates drama around you.

Do any of these sound like someone you know? Your colleagues? Your boss? Uh, you-ish? Even if none of these examples sound exactly like the negative traits you’ve experienced first hand, I imagine you could name a few others.

Speaking of naming …

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At HG, we believe in having a sense of humor about your dark side. The more honest you are about it, the less time you spend feeling guilty about it. You can actually put a gag order on it! So, in honor of taking down a negative trait, allow me to introduce you to one of mine, which I have nicknamed the “gangsta.” Apparently, whenever I’m worried, stressed, or when someone does something I don’t like/think is wrong, my gangsta comes out, without integrity or hesitation, mouth ablazing, ready to take down whoever wronged me.

Do I know this about myself? Sure. But, mostly, this bad behavior of mine shows up more in the comfort of my own home (and teenage daughter), rather than at work. However, a few months ago, the gangsta came to work when I found out that one of my employees didn’t get her job done with a big client. And, what upset me most, was not so much that she made a mistake, obviously, that happens; but, that I stumbled across it myself. She had hidden it from me. And, had she told me earlier, we could have fixed the situation. But, by the time I found out, there was nothing we could do.

A surefire trigger for me. And, out came the “justified” gangsta.

Did I act with love and respect? Nope. Did I lose my composure and sound, magically, a lot like my mother back in the dark ages (my teens)? Yes. Did I come after my employee’s integrity, when, in all fairness, my trait also had no integrity for me? Yes. And, though any boss reading this would agree that yes, it was a big mistake, did my employee deserve a ‘shootout’ with my gangsta?  


Ridiculously early the next morning, I woke up talking to myself. Never a good sign. Or, possibly a great sign, if you have a commitment to be great, which I do. At a more reasonable hour, I called my employee and we both apologized and owned what we needed to. She admitted to hiding and I, to my gangsta ways … which, I will also admit, gave her a good reason to hide.

Besides apologizing, what I did next might surprise you.  

I promised her, and subsequently my entire staff, that if I ever gangstered anyone ever again, I would owe them $100. Clearly, putting a much better “wanted sign” on my gangsta’s back than just guilt, embarrassment, or shame.

Showing my very own gangsta that there was a new sheriff in town — me.

Look. There is no question that employees are going to make mistakes, even fireable ones, but isn’t how you handle the situation up to you? Check. Decide who YOU are going to be in these situations.

Okay, now it’s your turn to turn your “gangsta” in! Please know, none of this work is easy; but, isn’t it about time your new sheriff showed?



  1. You may think you are hiding your negative traits, but you’re not. Interview your friends, spouse, boss, and co-workers about your bad behaviors — the ones they wished you’d leash. Ask each person how the behavior impacts them. Then make a list of all of your negative traits.

  2. Pick the first trait you are going to work on, the one that gets you into the most trouble, and log it for two weeks. For example, let’s say your bad behavior is that you are critical of people. Everyday, set an alert on your phone that asks you, “where was I critical today?”  Write it down. Gain consciousness of your negative trait: move it from your subconscious to your conscious mind.

  3. After two weeks, and a conscious understanding of your negative trait, make a promise that will allow you to stop that behavior. Unfortunately, you can’t promise that you’ll never do the behavior again, because, sorry, you are human. But, what you can do, is promise that if you ever do that behavior again, you owe a consequence to the person to whom you did it.

  4. A self-imposed consequence is not a punishment. It’s an incentive that has a person keep their promise. For example, owing a colleague lunch, an extra workout that week, or losing your glass of wine at night, would all be good consequences. Pick something strong enough that will have you keep your promise and stop the bad behavior. If feeling guilty about the trait would have worked as a consequence, it would have already!

  5. Now, for the first month of taking down a negative trait, check in with yourself at the end of each day. Did you do your bad behavior with someone? If you did, you have 24 hours to get back to that person and apologize. If you don’t apologize to them, you have to pay a consequence everyday in which you don’t clean it your mess. So, if your consequence is losing your glass of wine at night, you lose it every night until you apologize.

That ought to do it, right? Or, at the very least, get you fighting for a better team than your negative trait’s team.

I promise if you take this on seriously, and go to battle with it, you will not only change your behavior, but also, change how you feel about yourself.  

Have fun taking this on and down!

P.S. Articulating your bad behavior is just the start … and accountability can help you cross the finish line. Find out more about our corporate coaching options by emailing me at