What happens when you suppress perceived negativity in lieu of remaining positive? You create a bigger problem. You create a culture that is one of denial and a refusal to face issues head on. The culture is then a façade of positivity that operates blindly.
Here is a perfect example via an article published by the NY Times:
HIV cases surpass a million in Russia, but little is done: A combination of stigma and ignorance, a “family values” emphasis and government indifference have pushed HIV to epidemic status.
It would seem Russia and a number of its residents are more interested in maintaining a certain image than addressing a real problem. The article writes, “Compounding the problems, the federal government has tried to silence organizations that challenged its policies, labeling them “foreign agents” for receiving grants from abroad, forcing some to close.”
A second example can be seen in the corporate world. A company I recently became involved with has had serious logistical problems for the past year or so. When I first joined the company I knew about the problems, but was promised they were no longer going to be an issue. Well, they were an issue – a big one. And there was not one person I saw whom was willing to deal with the issues in a straightforward manner. The approach was one of sweeping it under the rug, and only allowing “positivity” in the group discussions. They even went so far as to delete any posts deemed negative by the Administrator. Posts that were expressing very real frustrations about a company that was taking no direct actions to rectify the impact their lack of planning has had on both the consultants and customers.
Now, let me emphasize DIRECT actions, because there are many that would argue, “Well of course they are taking action. They are planning on a new IT system and have hired a new Executive to better manage the operations.” Those are not direct actions; they are internal shuffles. They do nothing to acknowledge and mend the lack of customer service that has impacted both customers and consultants. The actions they took are a workaround.
To me, integrity is everything. I couldn’t imagine delivering such a low level of customer service and not offering a single thing in retribution to those impacted.
That, however, seems to be a theme in not only the corporate world, but in the world in general. To put blinders on to the negative implications our actions have caused, as they are too uncomfortable to look at or deal with.
A better approach is to embrace the negative feelings that are a completely normal part of being human. Those feelings are not “wrong” or “bad” and should not be treated as such. They need to be acknowledged and worked through as they arise, or you risk creating a more negative response that will be increasingly difficult to manage. You can’t simply close your eyes and hope it all goes away. We need to remain accountable to the culture we create – both in business and in life.