How To Handle A Negative Team Environment

So you’ve found yourself in the midst of a negative team environment. Maybe it’s the coaches, the teammates, the school, the town, or simply the air around you. No matter where the negativity is originating, the fact is, it’s there.

Dealing with a negative environment is something I’m all too familiar with. I’ve also witnessed it happen to athletes I’ve worked with. So I know from first and second hand experience how devastating and draining it is to find yourself in such an environment. 

Success cannot live within a cloud of negativity. Perhaps there will be small glimpses, but they will not be sustained. To achieve your goals, whether personal or as a team, there needs to be a culture that thrives on winning. 

Notice I didn’t say positivity. It’s not always about being positive, as though everything is perfect. What I see as the opposite of a negative environment is a winning environment. One that permeates confidence, trust, and a vision of success.

None of that is present within a negative culture. Which is why, learning the dangers of a negative team environment, and more importantly, how to handle such a negative environment is crucial to not only your success as an athlete but the fulfillment you receive from playing. 

 

"Success cannot live within a cloud of negativity. Perhaps there will be small glimpses, but they will not be sustained."

 

How Negativity Is Infectious

If you’re finding yourself within a negative environment, I don’t have to work too hard to explain how infectious it is. Just like a disease, negativity latches onto anyone within close proximity. 

It’s an infectious parasite that crawls its way into your mind, working to turn your mindset negative so you can continue the spread. 

Moods and attitudes on both sides of the spectrum are infectious. That’s why when you’re around someone who’s happy and positive all the time, it’s difficult for you to not adopt at least a small bit of positivity.

Likewise, when you’re around someone with a sour attitude, it’s just as easy to have some of their negativity rub off on you.

No matter whether you’re around a negative or positive person, to keep a steady mindset of your own creation, constant work and attention must be put forth. Leave this up to chance and you can guarantee you’ll exhibit a similar attitude to whomever you’re around.

In sports, this is dangerous when the negativity leads to a culture of losing.

 

A Culture Of Losing 

Within a team or organization, a negative environment has its foundations in losing. If the team were a part of a winning organization, whose culture was built on success, would it make sense for the environment to then be negative?

No, there would be a winning culture. Simply through association, you would end up developing a winning mindset yourself. This is why putting yourself in such an environment is important. But what happens when you find yourself in the midst of a losing environment?

A culture of losing starts in the mind. From the top down, there is an overarching belief (or lack of belief) that has led to an environment based in losing. 

Now, at a conscious, rational level, it may appear that all efforts are being put forth to change the culture. The coaches are working hard to recruit strong players and the practices are structured and aimed at improving. However, come game time, losing continues. 

Why is this?

Well, it’s due to a very simple fact: the culture and underpinning beliefs are negative. This negativity has spread to all the players, and while the effort is there, the true belief that winning is possible remains absent. 

 

"A culture of losing starts in the mind. From the top down, there is an overarching belief (or lack of belief) that has led to an environment based in losing." 

 

How A Negative Team Environment Impacts You

Due to the infectious nature of negativity (just as with all attitudes), it’s undeniably going to have an impact on you. The question is, how much of an impact?

That’s going to depend on how strong your mindset currently is and whether you tend to naturally gravitate towards having a more negative disposition.

But no matter how strong your mind is, when you are a part of such a losing culture, you must be careful not to adopt certain mental game challenges that are going to lower your performances and suck the joy out of playing.

 

A Negative Environment Leads To Negative Self-Talk

If your goal is to perform poorly, one of the first traits you want to adopt is negative self-talk.

The way you speak to yourself is a leading factor in how you feel, and consequently the way you act. By speaking down to yourself, you increase self-doubt, anxiety and fear, destroy your focus, and lower your motivation.

Now, my guess is your goal is not to perform poorly. Quite the opposite, I’d imagine. Your aim is to reach your full potential, going out there each day and performing your best. To do so, as opposed to negative self-talk you need positive and productive self-talk.

However, between the two of those, negative self-talk is the likely type that will form as you find yourself within a negative team environment. This is because self-talk is developed through training and repetition.

A large aspect of a negative environment is negative language. Other people will be speaking a certain way to themselves and others. As a result, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ll adopt a similar internal dialogue.

 

"The way you speak to yourself is a leading factor in how you feel, and consequently the way you act. By speaking down to yourself, you increase self-doubt, anxiety and fear, destroy your focus, and lower your motivation."

 

A Negative Environment Leads To A Loss Of Passion

When you have a lot of passion to play, how do you feel? You’re probably full of energy and intensity, you enjoy playing, training, and really anything that has to do with your sport. 

Now, imagine if instead of experiencing all of those positive and empowering emotions, you had to play under a cloud of negativity. How much passion do you think you’d have?

If you’re already a part of such a negative environment, you know the answer. It’s likely that your passion will quickly fade. 

You may even wonder if you’ve completely lost the love for your sport. Though, is it really the love for the sport you’ve lost, or is it that any passion and joy you may feel is quickly overshadowed by the dense feelings of negativity surrounding you?

As passion fades, so will motivation and your level of play. It’s difficult to overcome adversities, keep a winning mindset, and stay focused during a game when you have lost all joy for your sport. 

At that point, it feels more like a chore. By being a part of a losing culture and a negative environment, it’s easy to find yourself losing passion even for a sport you used to love completely.

 

A Negative Environment Leads To Fear & Anxiety

A key aspect of a negative culture is focusing on mistakes. Maybe this manifests in the form of your coaches yelling at anyone who makes even the slightest mistake. Or perhaps it’s the teammates who get on one another for messing up.

More than likely, it will be a combination of both. And what’s worse is, there will be very little focus given to positives. 

For example, let’s say a team has a bad game. Following the game, the coach lays into each one of them, berating them for how poorly they played. This goes on for a good ten minutes. 

Now, let’s say the team just played well. After the game, the coach quickly brushes over the fact that they won, and finds areas where they can improve. 

Do you see the problem? A lot of focus is given to the negatives, but only a small bit of attention is given to what the team did well. Even when they win, the coach spends more time on the mistakes they made. 

What this leads to is a culture of fear and anxiety. When all you do is focus on negatives, it can feel as though you must be perfect. A mistake is something to fear and an outcome is something you desperately seek to control. 

 

How To Handle A Negative Team Environment

As outlined above, it’s clear that a negative team environment is going to wreak havoc on not only your level of play but your joy as well. Being a part of such a culture, if not handled proactively, is not sustainable and will never allow for the success you desire. 

That’s why, the next step, if you find yourself in such an environment, is to learn how it can be handled. 

There are two choices you have in a negative team environment: you choose to leave or you choose to stay. It’s really as simple as that. But the most important part, no matter which you choose, is that you accept responsibility for yourself. 

What I mean is, you have the responsibility to decide which is the best option for you. Yes, the environment is negative and that is not within your control. But what is under your control is the choice you make. 

Once you make your decision, you reclaim power. From there, in order for either of these choices to work, you must no longer blame or make excuses based on your environment. 

So, if you’re ready to accept responsibility and take control of your mind and ultimately your career, here are the two choices you need to make when in a negative team environment

 

"There are two choices you have in a negative team environment: you choose to leave or you choose to stay. It’s really as simple as that."

 

Choice #1: You Choose To Leave

Funny enough, this can simultaneously be the easiest and most difficult of the two decisions. On one hand, removing yourself from the negative environment is the fastest and easiest way to reduce the impact it has on your game and your mind.

Though, doing so is not at all easy. There are many factors that play into the difficulty of leaving a team. One may be the bond you have with your teammates. Yeah, some of them may be negative, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still have a relationship with them. 

Just because they aren’t elevating your mindset doesn’t mean they aren’t your friends. Choosing to leave the team, which if you’re in high school or college also means leaving the school, involves leaving friends behind. 

Another factor that plays into the difficulty of leaving is losing an opportunity. If you’re in the middle of a season, it’s difficult to remove yourself, since you’ll likely lose eligibility in the process. 

If you’re a professional, leaving a team can mean losing out on that opportunity and also the financial incentives that it brings. 

However, no matter the difficulty, if the situation is truly weighing heavily on you and resulting in any of the challenges outlined earlier, removing yourself from the environment may be the best choice you can make. 

 

Choice #2: You Choose To Stay

If you don’t choose to leave, the only other option you have is to remain where you are. Now, this is blatantly obvious, but the reason it’s important to recognize the choice you’re making is to stay is due to responsibility.

Once you decide to stay, though your choice may be affected by external factors as I just described, you are accepting full responsibility for where you are. This means, you can no longer blame the environment, because you were the one that chose to stay. 

If you do decide to stay in a negative team environment, you must work incredibly hard to counteract the known negative effects it has on your mind and your game.

This involves being proactive in building confidence, a positive internal dialogue, and mental toughness to keep a winning mindset even when all looks gray.

Deciding to stay is the easiest choice upfront to make, though it is accompanied by a momentous task on your part. That is to continually work to stay positive and strengthen your mind while faced with such negativity

 

"If you do decide to stay in a negative team environment, you must work incredibly hard to counteract the known negative effects it has on your mind and your game."

 

Final Thoughts

Being a part of a negative team environment is exhausting. It can result in you losing confidence, performing poorly, and ultimately losing the love for the game. A losing culture surrounds you, making it difficult not to adopt a similar mindset. 

Which is why, recognizing the choices you have in such a situation is powerful. You must realize you hold the power to choose whether to stay or leave. By accepting such responsibility, you no longer live bound to the environment for which you’re in. 

You must choose to either stay or to leave. If you leave, be sure to look for a more positive environment. If you stay, know you have to work hard to strengthen your mind within the environment you’re a part of. 

But either way, always remember that the power to choose is yours. 

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do. 

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