There is a force that causes businesses to produce results that are far less than the those they are capable of creating. It causes them to lose the talented employees they need, and it causes them to treat their clients and customers poorly—and in some cases, to treat them as adversaries. Like all of the most powerful forces on Earth, it is invisible to the naked eye. This force is negativity.
The Only Cancer That Spreads by Contact
Negativity is the only cancer that spreads by contact. It is passed from Patient Zero, the carrier, to the people with whom they come into contact. It starts with Patient Zero complaining about “the way things are” and “the way things should be,” even though the person infected with negativity never does anything to make things better. To do something about things that might be better, you have to be a positive, optimistic, future-oriented individual with the ability to see things as better than they are and work towards that vision.
Patient Zero’s complaints starts to infect susceptible Future Hosts with a seductive idea, the idea that none of the challenges or problems are the fault of Patient Zero or the Future Host. Instead, the problems are external forces working on Patient Zero and their prospective Host.
The problems come from their unreasonable difficult clients, the ones that no one could serve because they are so needy, always asking for help producing the results they need. Other problems are the result of Patient Zero’s inept leadership team who is nowhere near as smart as Patient Zero. Then there are the other employees, the ones who actually believe that they do good work and make a difference for their clients. Over time, because Patient Zero continues to whisper in the ears of those who are keen to believe that nothing is their fault, there are new Hosts carrying the infection and infecting others. At some point, because the disease presses on unopposed, it runs rampant.
Fighting the Infection
The advice given to boxers before a fight is apt advice here: “Protect yourself at all times.” If you are a leader, protect your culture at all times.
If you don’t know who Patient Zero is, it’s likely they are right now reshaping your culture to one that is negative. If you know who Patient Zero is and have done nothing to protect yourself, your team, and your culture, their infection is likely already spreading throughout your company, making your culture something that repels good people instead of attracting them.
To create a positive, optimistic, future-oriented, and empowered culture, you have to remove people who work against those ends before they destroy your culture. You have to work twice as hard on shaping a culture around beliefs and values that bring out the best in people, that provide them with a sense of agency, and that allows to do meaningful work.