Trash The Toxic Work Tropes

The last couple of years has been the kind to make one take a step back, think hard, and make sure priorities and values are in check. The core values that we believe in, and act on, at Daggerhart Lab, are gratitude, being collaborative, and being flexible. As the pandemic has been so hard for so many, it’s essential to find ways to prioritize these core values.

When so many other companies were forced to close their doors, we were able to start a successful development agency and work with incredible clients. When you’re in our position, it’s imperative to make sure and avoid toxic tropes that can infest a work environment. Some of these “toxic tropes” can cause an ugly domino effect, such as a dip in morale. This can cause for employee turnover which is often also difficult for company morale. Equally, it can then affect the quality of work, which can affect the client/vendor relationship, and so forth.

How Gratitude Shapes a Work Environment

We know having these kinds of core values aren’t unique, but we’re working on unique ways to keep them strong! What we wanted to do first was identify the most important “toxic tropes” to know what we’re looking for. It boiled down to one major theme that prevailed over essentially any individual trope, and that is general negativity. The thing is, our brains are hardwired to protect ourselves from harm. This is referred to as “negativity bias”.

Psychology Today points out that negativity bias “also serves some important psychological, emotional, and social purposes. Because the human brain is organized to learn from experience, we have developed the capacity to pay attention to negative experiences in order to protect ourselves from harm.” It is common to start finding things to nitpick about a certain client or to become annoyed with a co-worker. We’ve all experienced this, and many of us realized it was happening before it got ugly, others have not. Our mission is to consistently remain on the “realize it before things get ugly” side of the fence. We’re doing a great job thus far, so we’re sharing our take on this in hopes of helping others.

Avoid Toxic Positivity In Your Work Environment

There has been a lot of talk about “toxic positivity” in regards to trying to just brush past what’s bothering someone. There is often an attitude of “it could be worse” with language like “I should just be grateful for…” While conceptually that can be true, it’s not always the most productive or mentally healthy choice of phrasing or mindset. There can be room to get things out in the open that may be causing productivity issues. It’s helpful to avoid this turning into something that employees bond over. To be fair, it’s incredibly common to bond over these kinds of subjects as negativity bias literally affects all humans. In fact, there are full-blown comedy sketches about it!

This one from Comedy Central was posted with this simple comment “There’s no better feeling than the mutual hatred of a coworker.” YIKES! While this sketch is hilarious, it’s really not how we roll.

Remember the Mission at Hand

The thing is, we all know this can happen with clients too, and that is totally unacceptable. Without clients, there is no work and no paychecks coming in. It’s important to keep this in mind if you’re feeling the negativity bias in your brain starting to kick in. First, remember to forgive yourself because your brain is just doing what it’s supposed to do. Then, work on rerouting those thoughts with some gratitude or mindfulness practice. Some ways to reroute neuropathy for positivity are mindfulness practices through free apps such as MyLife. It’s a meditation app that focuses on mindfulness.

It has also been widely studied, such as this research case study done at Berkley, that forming a regular practice of gratitude in your personal life will positively spill over into your whole life. It is particularly effective to work on rerouting your thoughts, and subsequent neuro patterns when they often lean negative. These are literal muscles that can be retrained for your own benefit.

You Can Be Grateful & Authentic

We’ve found it helpful to make sure any meetings that discuss clients, and the overall project, are well structured. To do this, it’s helpful to have processes in place to reroute conversations naturally should they go negative. In particular, if the meeting goes from productive critique to bonding over something like common pet peeves. It’s important to talk about any client and/or co-worker issues if they crop up so they can be addressed. However, it shouldn’t be something that can spiral and become a negative team bonder.

For us, these discussions should be to work on finding tangible solutions. These should focus on ensuring the client is receiving proper service and professionalism, as well as addressing any employee concerns. It may seem a bit trite, but well-structured and consistent communication is the key to making all of this possible. In researching for this blog – you’ll never guess what we found! (sarcasm) Happy employees keep happy clients, and happy clients keep happy vendors, and happy vendors keep happy clients…and so forth. It’s like the ouroboros of a positive work environment and client relationship.

Communication and Consistency are Key

The last part we will leave our readers with is this – stick to it! You have to stay in the mental “gym” when it comes to helping your brain stick to the positives. It’s one more reason our company loves being an Agile agency. Having built-in gratitude moments when we do “retros”, we discuss “what went well” to ensure we’re building on that. These retros also discuss “what could have gone better”. This is structured time leading to solutions and improvements for every single person on the project, from client to employee. These consistent practices have been incredibly effective for us, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to continue building and improving!

Do you or your company have a regular gratitude practice in place that you want to share? We’d love to what about it in the comments!

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