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Nurturing Positivity: Transforming the Culture of Negativity in 911 Centers

Updated: Jun 21

In the heart of emergency response lies the 911 center, a conduit of information where every second counts, and every call holds potential to save lives. Within this vital space, toxic negativity can seep in, corroding morale, and hindering effective operations. Combatting this toxicity demands more than just addressing behaviors; it requires a fundamental shift in mindset and culture, fostering an environment where positivity thrives and negativity finds no voice.

To tackle toxicity effectively, it's crucial to recognize that behaviors are merely manifestations of underlying mindsets. In the context of a 911 center, stress, high stakes, and intense emotions can amplify negative attitudes, breeding a culture of cynicism or resignation, two things 911 centers don't need. Our tendency to focus on negative things likely stems from evolution. Early humans who were more aware of dangers were more likely to survive and pass on their pay-attention-to-negative-stuff-around-you genes. Addressing specific behaviors without tackling the underlying cause is like trimming branches without addressing the roots.


Changing mindsets starts with intentional efforts to cultivate positivity. Leaders play a pivotal role here, setting the tone through their words, actions, and policies. Encouraging a growth mindset, where challenges are seen as opportunities for learning and improvement, can counteract the defeatist attitudes that fuel negativity.

Training programs focused on emotional intelligence, resilience, and stress management equip staff with the tools to navigate high-pressure situations without succumbing to negativity. By fostering a culture that values self-care and mental well-being, organizations empower their employees to maintain a positive outlook, even in the face of adversity.

Central to combating toxic negativity is creating channels for open, constructive communication. Staff should feel encouraged to voice concerns and grievances without fear of reprisal. Regular feedback mechanisms, such as surveys or town hall meetings, provide valuable insights into the prevailing attitudes within the organization.

However, it's essential to distinguish between constructive criticism and toxic venting. While the former contributes to growth and improvement, the latter only serves to propagate negativity. By establishing clear guidelines and expectations for communication, organizations can ensure that feedback remains productive and solution-oriented.

Leadership sets the standard for behavior within an organization. Managers and supervisors must embody the values of positivity and resilience they wish to instill in their teams. This involves not only modeling optimistic attitudes but also actively addressing negativity whenever it arises.

Confronting toxic behavior may be uncomfortable, but it's essential to nip it in the bud before it spreads. Whether through one-on-one conversations, mediation, or disciplinary action as a last resort, leaders must send a clear message that negativity will not be tolerated.

Amidst the challenges of the job, it's easy to overlook the positives. However, celebrating successes, no matter how small, is crucial for maintaining morale and reinforcing positive behaviors. Recognizing exemplary performance, milestones achieved, and acts of teamwork fosters a sense of accomplishment and belonging within the organization.

Moreover, highlighting success stories can serve as powerful antidotes to negativity, reminding staff of the meaningful impact of their work and the lives they've touched through their efforts.

Finally, combating toxic negativity requires vigilance in guarding against its resurgence. Just as a single spark can ignite a wildfire, allowing even a small instance of negativity to go unaddressed can lead to its proliferation. Organizations must remain steadfast in their commitment to maintaining a positive culture, rooting out negativity wherever it may lurk.

This involves not only addressing overt instances of negativity but also being attuned to subtler forms, such as gossip, sarcasm, or passive-aggressive behavior. By refusing to give negativity a foothold, organizations can prevent it from taking root and spreading its toxic influence.

In conclusion, combating toxic negativity in 911 centers demands a holistic approach that addresses both behaviors and mindsets. By fostering a culture of positivity, empowering open communication, leading by example, celebrating successes, and guarding against negativity, organizations can create an environment where staff thrive and excel in their mission to serve and protect their communities. Just as every call to 911 holds the potential to save a life, every effort to cultivate positivity holds the promise of transforming the culture of emergency response for the better.

byJon Stueve ORCEMS

Jon has over 30 years of experience in public safety communications.  He holds an Advanced Telecommunications and Supervisor certificates through the State of Oregon, as well as the Continuity of Operations Practitioner (COOP) and the Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT) certifications through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

PLS believes in teaching and supporting the whole telecommunicator.  In each of our lessons we include a mental wellness article which teaches the lesson taker vital techniques to calm themselves and even change the way they perceive or respond to negative stimulus.  To receive a free trial of our lessons, please click on the “Contact Us” link at the top of the page. 

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