Do you recognize organizational stinking-thinking? Let me ask you this: Is there a problem with negative thinking in your organization?

Stinking thinking—thinking that leads you to believe that you will fail, that bad things will happen to you, or that you are not a very good person—is toxic to you, and the people around you. Leaders with this type of negative mindset send the message that efforts are rarely good enough, things just don’t ever seem to go right, plans will likely fail, people are unreliable, and/or problems are beyond fixing.

Stinking thinking shows up in:


It’s a pervasive handicap, not only for a leader, but for everyone down the line. Organizations with a negative attitude at the top will end up in ruin, according to John Maxwell, author of the book entitled, Attitude 101: What Every Leader Needs To Know (2003, Thomas Nelson).

You see, negative and positive thoughts have a way of fulfilling themselves, since our beliefs, hopes, fears, plans, responses, and abilities are shaped by how we think. Of all people, it’s the leader whose mindset has the greatest impact, making this the most critical area to be addressed, for the benefit of all.

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Impacts Everyone

Stinking thinking is generally caused by anxieties, which in turn have their roots in emotionally damaging experiences, either in childhood or adulthood. Bottom line, it’s learned thinking, which becomes habitual.

Stinking thinking is also used to manipulate, bully and control others. According to Bernard J. Luskin, Ed. D., LMFT, in Psychology Today, “…stinking thinking can be used unintentionally or insidiously by colleagues at work…from overt forms of bullying to more subtle efforts to cloud clear and objective thinking.”

Either way, it affects everything and everyone. Sticking thinking can spread quickly, often leaving no trace of a source. It goes unnoticed, as a subtle, silent killer.

I have seen teamwork destroyed by stinking thinking and negativity; it causes people to dislike each other, find fault with each other, and resist each other. Performance and progress are inevitably slashed. Productivity, quality, and delivery follow a similar demise. Turnover and burnout are inevitable.

In short, bad thinking generates more bad thinking and bad responses lead to more bad responses. If it isn’t dealt with in a timely manner, the cliff can’t be avoided.

What do you think? Is there a problem in your organization with stinking thinking? How did you recognize it? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 561-582-6060; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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