5 Tips for Turning Around a Culture of Negativity

While it is easier to create a positive culture rather than repair a negative one, it is not impossible. With the adoption of a clear strategy and a few consistent behaviors, you can overhaul the outlook of your entire church staff.

1. Address the problem.

There comes a time when you have to address the elephant in the room. Gather your team together and identify the negative environment and your plans to change it. But do not get off on the wrong foot. This meeting is your first step toward improving your culture, so keep it positive. Instead of verbally analyzing the source of the problem or pointing fingers, talk about the negativity as if it is an uninvited guest that you and the team will eject together.

By addressing the problem, you are setting a clear, public boundary between the old culture and the new one. And you are inviting everyone to join you in expelling the unwanted intruder of negativity.

2. Identify your champions.

Find and deputize the naturally positive people on your team. Their job is not to “fix” the culture or chastise negative individuals. You just want to release them to do what they do best—counter organizational toxins by injecting conversations and situations with optimism and cheerfulness.

Like a candle in a dark room, this strategy combats negativity by contrast. Every time they find a silver lining in a discussion or respond to gossip by finding something positive to say about an absent individual, they confront the culture in an affirming, positive way.

By addressing the problem, you are setting a clear, public boundary between the old culture and the new one.

3. Find the root of the problem.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, “All positive staff cultures are alike; each negative culture is unhappy in its own way.” If you want to deal with an unhealthy environment, you need to identify and deal with the source problem. It could be any number of things:

  • Inadequate communication from leadership
  • Poorly understood expectations
  • Difficult or underperforming staff members
  • Lack of appreciation or compensation

Keep in mind that this is a step for leadership. Any attempt to publically analyze possible sources for the culture problem will only diminish morale. So get your leadership together and charitably discuss the root problem and how you plan to deal with it.

4. Bond as a team.

Team-building activities get a bad rap, but they are important. Increasing opportunities to socialize with teammates increases productivity. As people grow more comfortable with each other, they find it easier to collaborate, brainstorm, and problem solve. So find some fun projects you can do outside of the office as a team.

As you do your bonding activities, be aware of the current social dynamics. Chances are that your team already has cliques. This means that there is already an insider/outsider dynamic which might work against the activities you have planned. Find ways to bring anyone on the periphery of the team into the center.

5. Recognize and celebrate achievements.

The atmosphere on a lot of staffs is in shambles because team members feel underappreciated. It is hard to convince people to invest in the culture when they feel undervalued as an individual. The solution to the problem is pretty straightforward—create a culture of thankfulness.

Find ways to celebrate team wins and individual accomplishments. It does not have to be a dramatic or expensive gesture. Often a simple public acknowledgment will do. When people feel valued, they become more personally invested in the cultural climate.

When people feel valued, they become more personally invested in the cultural climate.

Set a course and stick to it.

A negative staff culture erodes productivity and morale. It puts a drag on the ultimate mission, which is to grow the Kingdom of God. The longer a negative culture is allowed to fester, the harder it becomes to attract good workers and keep your best partners.

Performing a mid-course correction is not easy, but it may be necessary. You cannot expect it to happen overnight. But if you identify a strategy and follow it consistently, it can be done. Leaders need to determine the course and steer the ship. You can do it!

What now?

CDF believes that true growth comes from intentional transformation. Our coaches partner with leadership teams to help churches grow from the inside out. Discover how CDF Leadership Capital can help your team.