Leaders need to understand negative interactions and the damage they are causing when they do offset them with positive interactions.
Be a Positive Leader By Andrew Downing
I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point our society normalized negative interactions by minimizing their impact. As children we were taught "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" - but that was complete nonsense. We knew it then, and we know it now. Words can hurt!
Now, as adults, it isn't any better. We are told, "have more of a backbone," "take it in stride," or "don't let it bother you" - but these phrases are also meaningless and empty. We shouldn't have to "let it roll off our backs," because we are not the problem. The problem is society. We have normalized downplaying the consequences of negative interactions. No one should ever consider us weak when someone's negative comments affect us. Instead, we need to turn the focus around, and leaders everywhere need to understand the impact and power of their negative interactions. Negative leadership is wrong and, quite frankly, should not be tolerated.
I'm not saying we can't disagree with each other, give feedback, or give constructive criticism, but leaders must be aware of how many positive and negative interactions they have on a regular basis. They need to understand that negative interactions have more effect on people than positive interactions. Disparaging interactions stay with us. They keep us up at night and make us doubt ourselves. They are disengaging and discouraging. According to a study on team performance by Barbara L. Fredrickson and Marcial F. Losada, to counteract the ill effects, leaders should offset every negative interaction with three or more positive interactions (or a positive-to-negative interactions ratio of at least 2.9:1). A positive interaction doesn't have to be as straightforward as telling someone they did well. It can be as simple as genuinely asking about someone's day or giving them a sincere compliment. Conversely, a negative interaction can include insults, criticisms, negative body language, or just disagreeing with someone. This is why leaders must be mindful about how they interact, because they can unknowingly create a negative atmosphere.
People will go out of their way to avoid negative attention. In a negative atmosphere they become defensive and develop a propensity for caution by avoiding new and risky responsibilities at all costs. The key is to focus on encouragement and compassion. Building strong positive relationships is essential to creating a workplace where employees want to do their best, which is why leaders must always be wary of the 2.9:1 positive-to-negative interaction ratio.
Be mindful of your interactions. Seek out opportunities to praise colleagues. Look for co-workers doing good work. Give feedback, but keep their best interest in mind so they can grow. Help your team members improve, not for your gain, but so they can have better careers. Treat everyone with respect, and always act with a kind heart.
1 Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive Affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. The American psychologist, 60(7), 678–686. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.7.678