Abundance Mindset: Overcoming Culture Erosion to Create Safe & Healthy Workplaces - Part 2 of 4

August 26, 2015 | Lexy Thompson | HCI
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Part 2 of 4

In Part 1 of this series we introduced the concept of an Abundance Mindset and the three different types of work environments: Abundance Based, Uncivil, and Abusive. Part 2 will address the “Why bother?” and how to start detecting scarcity thinking.

Why bother? Your time.

On average, people spend 1/3 of their life at work. That’s a lot of time, and if you’ve had a bad day at work then you know how that can leak into the other 2/3rds of your life, FAST! It can even interrupt your sleep! I see a lack of safety at work slowly chip away at people’s spirit. Every day they lose a little bit more trust and give into Scarcity Thinking. They begin to believe their truly isn’t enough to go around, and why shouldn’t they? Proof is in the pudding, right?

What if everything we tell ourselves about “the way things are” isn’t a product of unbeatable odds? In fact, it’s a product of Scarcity and Fear. Abundance based teams and cultures get their time back. The 1/3 of the time they spend at work is productive and even enjoyable. The other 2/3rds isn’t spent worrying and ruminating about the other 1/3rd. That’s why we bother.

Detecting Scarcity Thinking

Think about your work environment, the people you work with, your leaders, your meetings, your emails… Now, think about the last time one of those things set you off. Maybe a co-worker made an offhand comment about your work ethic, or your boss has been dismissive of your efforts on a project. Perhaps you recently received an email with questionable tone “demanding” something of you in an accusatory manner. Think hard about your reaction to those things. Did you become defensive? Were your feelings hurt? Did you spit back an equally questionable email?

Where did that response come from? From a sense of safety and abundance? Or from a lack of trust and scarcity?

Your work environment and the culture of an organization are simply the sum total of tiny events like these.

We think it’s the cool gadgets and the amazing amenities and the company values plastered all over the bathrooms. Those things are a part of it, but they are not the meat of it. The “real” culture, the one you can feel when you walk through the doors every day, that’s a product of you, and the guy on the 5th floor in accounting and the woman in the corner office across the hall.

Do you realize what that means?

A culture change can start with one person, one team, one action. We’ve all felt the ramifications of an infectious mood, be it good or bad. That’s kind of how Culture Accretion[1] and Culture Erosion[2] work. How many of you have been on a team that was working really well together until a new member was added? Something about that one person shifted the dynamic and everything changed. ONE person changed things. On the flip side, how many people have been on a team that was not working well, and a new person was added who was inexplicably able to bring everyone together?

So, what’s the action?

Change is the accumulation of many small action steps over time.

Change begins small. That means change can start with you. And it can start with one simple action: detecting scarcity thinking. Both personally and around you. We talked about the extreme version of scarcity thinking last time – Abusive Conduct. Just to jog our memories, Abusive Conduct[i] is:

  • 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

If we all think about these behaviors for just a moment, most of us can probably think of a time or two we experienced one or more of them. Perhaps it’s happened to you, or you saw it happen to a co-worker. And, just maybe, you’ve been a perpetrator. While Abusive Conduct is a clear sign that scarcity thinking is at play, there are some other more subtle behaviors or thought patterns we can observe to identify scarcity thinking. These are commonly known as Stress Behaviors, and they show up in each of us differently. Examples include:

  • Passive aggressive reactions
  • Complaining
  • Gossiping
  • Conflict avoidance
  • Unnecessary sarcasm
  • Fatigue
  • Overly sensitive to criticism
  • Overly critical
  • “I’ll just do it myself” attitude
  • Constant self-deprecation, internally or externally

And the list goes on and on. If it’s a behavior most would find unattractive or counterproductive, it’s probably a Stress Behavior.

Awareness is the first step.

Over the next month (until Part 3 arrives with tools & solutions), I challenge you to start detecting the scarcity around you. It might be as noticeable as an unfriendly argument, or it may be as innocuous as one too many exasperated sighs in a conversation. Then start looking for patterns. Is it recurring over time? That’s the difference between a bad day and a problem!

And for your part, anytime you find yourself bewildered or puzzled by the actions of others, before you react or respond to anything, ask yourself one simple question:

“Why would a good and decent person choose to do this?”

Seriously. Every email, every off-handed comment, every slight or injustice, ask that question. You’ll begin to change your narrative (toward abundance, mind you), one small step at a time.


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

[2] 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.



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