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Combating Negativity in Dispersed Teams

In today's rapidly evolving workplace, dispersed teams face unique challenges that test their resilience and unity. As leaders, our primary role extends beyond managing tasks; we must cultivate an environment where every team member feels psychologically safe. This sense of security is crucial, not just for productivity, but also for helping our teams bounce forward from uncontrollable challenges with enthusiasm and optimism.

Negativity within a team can spread just as quickly and damagingly as the common cold in an office setting. I often refer to this as the “ah-choo” effect. Imagine this: when one person sneezes out negativity, it splatters far and wide, infecting those around with doubt, fear, and discomfort. It’s an unsettling image, right? Just as no one feels healthy in a room full of sneezing, no one feels safe, optimistic, or productive when negativity becomes the norm. So, how do we manage this?

Our first step is recognising the signs of a negativity outbreak. When team members feel beaten down, angry, or miserable, and start "ah-chooing" their negativity, it's a sign to us as leaders that something deeper may be happening. The real question then becomes: How can we ensure their negativity doesn’t deteriorate our team’s overall performance? What elements are within our control?

Creating a resilient, results-driven culture is essential, especially for leaders of dispersed teams. In my Leadership Resilience Program, we focus on practical, impactful strategies to curb negativity and encourage a supportive environment. Here are some of the powerful methods we explore:

🌼 Courageous Conversations:

Open, honest dialogue can prevent misunderstandings and resentment from festering. By addressing issues head-on, leaders can avoid the emotional "sneezes" that disrupt team harmony.

One of my greatest leadership regrets from years ago was when I wasn't honest and transparent with my team because I thought I was protecting them from a very bad situation. I decided not to have a courageous conversation and instead I tried to work it all out by myself so they wouldn’t have to be affected. What it felt like to them though, was that I was treating them like school children not as the wise, experienced adults that they were. It was a hard, but worthwhile lesson for me to learn.

🌼 Role-Modelling:

Leaders set the emotional tone of their teams. By demonstrating positivity, resilience, and proactive problem-solving, you can inspire your team to mirror these attributes.

🌼 Injecting Humour and Lightness:

Laughter isn’t just good medicine for the soul; it’s a powerful antidote to stress and negativity. Light moments can significantly lift spirits and bond team members across miles.

🌼 Movement and Music:

Never underestimate the power of physical activity and music to elevate mood and energy levels. Encourage your team to integrate these elements into their routines, whether through virtual dance breaks or shared playlists. Here is a resource with a couple of dozen ideas to help you move more at work. 


As leaders of dispersed teams, our goal isn’t just to manage, it's to inspire and empower. By taking proactive steps to maintain psychological safety, we not only enhance our team's current productivity but also protect them against future challenges. Remember, a sneeze of negativity can be contagious, but so can a burst of positivity.

Choose to be the leader who spreads good vibes, resilience, and success.

To read more blogs related to this topic, click here... #futureofwork#humanresources#psychologicalsafetyleadership

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