Abundance Mindset: Overcoming Culture Erosion to Create Safe & Healthy Workplaces - Part 1 of 4

June 19, 2015 | Lexy Thompson | HCI
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What exactly is an Abundance Mindset?

Having an Abundance Mindset is a state of being; it means knowing there is plenty and displaying behavior cohesive with that. Behavior examples include:

  • Clear, concise, timely & kind communication
  • Sharing resources
  • Collaboration
  • Expressing gratitude regularly
  • Constructive feedback
  • Giving credit where credit is due
  • Providing solutions proactively

In essence, it’s the idea that the glass is half full, not half empty. Abundance Based teams adopt this mindset and actively embed it into their team culture.

Cultural Norms Versus Scarcity Thinking

Work environments vary for a variety of reasons. The established culture in one industry can have a very different look and feel than one in another. An easy example to consider is the culture norms in a mechanic’s shop versus a bank’s corporate office. Everything from attire, educational requirements for employment and what’s considered “politically correct” are different. Crude humor and language may be an expectation in the mechanic’s shop, whereas it is most likely seen as disruptive and inappropriate at the banking office.

While certain aspects of any workplace can be considered cultural (as in the example above), abusive conduct is NEVER a “cultural norm”. Abusive conduct results from deficit thinking and scarcity mentality. By definition, it is repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more people of an employee.[1] Behavior examples include:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats, intimidation, humiliation
    • Ostracizing (exclusion from group)
  • Work interference, sabotage
    • Resource withholding/restrictions
    • Taking credit for other’s work
    • Exclusion from job related meetings, gatherings, etc.
  • A combination of any or all of the above

Abusive conduct is also referred to as Workplace Bullying. The underlying current of “not enough to go around” breeds fear in the workplace. In turn, fear causes individuals and teams to justify certain behaviors as cultural norms, when they are in fact abusive conduct.

Why do we care?

Abusive environments are bad for business and even worse for your people. Abusive conduct affects more than 65.5 million employees in the US. As reported by WBI, environments where abusive behavior is tolerated, and in some cases unknowingly encouraged, experience $8 million in lost productivity, $16 million in turnover, $225,000-$1.4 million in litigation settlement costs, and $114,000 in disability for cases where there is health harm involved.

Even in an environment somewhere between Abundance & Abusive, organizations are losing productivity and money between the cost of avoidance, dysfunctional teams and disengaged employees. The costs add up to millions every year, all from one, seemingly innocuous culprit: Scarcity Thinking.

The Environment Spectrum

Building an Abundance Based Environment tackles the issue of workplace conflict and/or bullying by defining it and creating an action plan forward by utilizing tools and techniques to begin building a culture where abusive conduct cannot exist! The environment spectrum below defines the characteristics of Abundance, Uncivil & Abusive environments. While there may be lapses from one to another, the question to ask is “Which defines my work environment MOST of the time?”

Culture Erosion: the gradual destruction or diminution of team and/or organizational culture; typically marked by an increase in scarcity thinking, and in many cases abusive conduct

Culture Accretion: the process of growth or increase in abundance mindset, reestablishing a sustainable team or organizational culture that thrives

From left to right, we have Culture Erosion, and from right to left we have Culture Accretion. Both can be slow processes, but it’s typically much easier to lapse into Culture Erosion than it is to be in Culture Accretion; the difference is that breaking (eroding) trust, and therefore safety, is MUCH easier to do in a short amount of time than rebuilding (accreting) trust and safety.

Solutions and Paths to Action

The rest of the series will focus on the power of an Abundance Mindset, detecting scarcity thinking and preventing abusive conduct, how to build an Abundance Based team (the tools), and the payoff. Even if a team isn’t in an Abusive Environment, chances are there is some sense of Scarcity Culture, and the team is just “surviving”. By employing an Abundance Mindset, all teams can thrive!


[1] Definition provided by Drs. Gary & Ruth Namie with The Workplace Bullying Institute