There is a great scene in the movie Roadhouse. Not the best movie, but one with a few classic scenes, and one with a lesson.
Sam Elliott is sharing with Patrick Swayze how to take care of a big fight in the bar where they are in charge of security. In this scene, Elliott tells Swayze that Texas Rangers would put an end to a battle by identifying and taking out the leaders, and that was the strategy that they would employ in their bar.
This strategy is useful for thinking about how you protect your culture from negativity.
Good, happy, positive people can easily be made negative by the person or people around them. This is especially true when people want to be liked, when they want to fit in, and when they want to belong. Without even knowing that they have become negative, they get their positivity slowly and meticulously whittled away.
The negative person starts by complaining. Things are not what they should be. The job should be easier. The pay should be higher. They should be allowed to do things their way. Then the negative person starts to provide the rationale for why they fail to produce results, citing all the reasons they are prevented from success. It’s a seductive, subversive message: It’s not us. It’s them.
All the conversations between the negative person and the positive person sitting next to them occur out of earshot of leadership. Because it isn’t noticed, it continues, unabated.
You know the negative people on your team. But you may not know that they are poisoning the rest of your team—or just how much damage they are doing—until it is too late.
Changing a single person on a team can change the whole culture of that team. Removing the source of negativity can immediately improve a culture that is pessimistic, cynical, disempowered, and struggle.