top of page

Falling into the Potholes of Negativity

Have you ever driven through a pothole that appeared to be very shallow only to discover that appearances can be deceiving?

As my friends and I have discussed the pothole series, some regaled me with stories of how they broke an axle by going through a deceptively deep pothole. Interestingly enough, there have been more than a couple of my friends and colleagues who have experienced this calamity.

Ever the skeptic, I tease them. "Did you not try and avoid the deep crater?" The inevitable reply:

"But it didn't look that deep when I went through it. i thought I could just power through it without damage".

Welcome to the second in the series of Navigating Bumps in the Road. This week, I want to focus on the deceptively deep pothole called Negativity.

A well-studied fact is that Negative Office Culture can create such an atmosphere of toxicity that powerful adverse outcomes are delivered.

Take a moment to watch one of the funniest examples of Negative Work Place Culture.

I love the above clip which shows Lucy and Ethel working in a chocolate factory. They want to do a good job, but the supervisor is intimidating, insulting and gave them expectations without instructions. When they begin to struggle, they are afraid to let their supervisor know because of her negative and intimidating behavior. Therefore, she magnifies their expectations, causing them to completely fail. I use this clip often to talk about a negative work culture.

Just like in the clip, when we are trying to operate within a culture of shame and blame, it becomes very difficult for us to function at our potential. And this was just chocolate.

Every office has a culture. Four offices may all have the same tasks, duties and responsibilities. Three may be functioning well and have good productivity, high morale and low turnover. Yet one of the offices (with all of the same workload) exhibits low productivity, low morale and high turnover. Now there may be a myriad of reasons why the lone office has such a different outcome, but one very likely cause is office culture.

The high functioning offices typically have a culture of supportive supervision, collaborative idea sharing and employees who feel valued. While the poorly functioning office might exhibit supervision by intimidation, devaluing of employees and punitive decision making.

Imagine this type of culture in an agency where the workers had to display empathy, compassion and collaboration with families in crisis. How difficult would it be to extend to others empathy while carrying around a feeling of defeat and negativity.

Has this been you? Have you tried to navigate your social work career and driven straight into the pothole of negativity. Do you feel intimidated to ask for help yet devalued when your best doesn't seem good enough?

First of all, please hear me when I say this.

  1. You are amazing to even want to protect children and build up families!

  2. I applaud your extremely hard work and see your herculean efforts

  3. You are my heroes

I really hope you hear that and if you need to read those words again, please do. It may seem like you are not valued, but I assure you that you are. Even when it seems like you have a case that falls through the cracks, there are others that found success because of you. And those families may never thank you, but they know the role you played in helping them through that crisis.

So, what do you do when you work in a negative workplace culture? I think you will find, in all of my writing, that i believe strongly in the power of you.

  1. Use your positive affirmations to keep your positive self worth in the forefront of your mind

  2. Remember those families that you have helped. I could sometimes go for days remembering that I played a part in a successful family reunion.

  3. Self Talk: Remind yourself of what your mission is and what is most important for you. Is it to be liked by your supervisor or praised in front of your crew? Or is it to make a difference in the lives of others. You will find when you focus on your mission, then the negativity around you can fade like the buzzing of gnats.

  4. Lift others up and watch their reactions.


When one voice spreads positive affirmation and lifts up another in the office, a paradigm shift can occur. It may occur slowly and almost imperceptibly but don't give up. The change starts with two very important people.

The leader is the person who makes the first positive move, and they are important. But the first follower is even more important because their "following" lends validation to the leaders' moves. The first follower gives tacit approval for others to do the same. And, as more people follow the positive leader, a shift cannot be far behind.

So, while negativity may seem like just a nuisance to office staff, it is a powerful and deep pothole that can damage our navigation and cause us to stall. Challenge for this week is to examine what is causing the negative workplace culture. Then check yourself to assess the role you play. Finally try a few of the above steps to begin a cultural change.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Last week my husband started a new chemo regimen. The old regiment was not having the success that we wanted and the oncologist wanted to try something new. The new chemotherapy drug they were going t

Music: The Open Window

Have you heard of the ACEs study? I won’t go into detail of the entire study, but hit the highlights. CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experience study, 1985 to 1987 is one of the largest stud


bottom of page