Guest Article - 5 Ways to Overcome Negativity in the Workplace

Whatever your experience, I’m sure you can agree, that a negative environment doesn’t help our productivity, job satisfaction or success.

The Prerequisites

While there are some specific things you can do to overcome negativity (yours or those around you), there are three prerequisites for success. Without them, you’ll never successfully overcome negativity.

  • Recognize it is an issue. If you have read this far, you probably agree with this item. Negativity saps our energy and passion. Negativity takes our focus away from our work. Negativity keeps work from being enjoyable. The effects of negativity are real, and when you recognize this, you have overcome the first hurdle to overcoming its effects.
  • Recognize that you can overcome it. Whether negativity is the norm or an occasional visitor, you must believe that it can be overcome. If you think that isn’t possible, you’ve given into the negativity far too much!
  • Recognize that it is about you. Yep - it is about you. Whether you are the instigator or the target, you have a responsibility to overcome negative attitudes. There are things you can do - there are things in your control. If you want to know what you can do, read on.

Now on to the Five Ways to Overcome Negativity in the Workplace…

Make Their Day

When you know the source of the negativity, you can go out of your way to make their day. It won’t necessarily take a big effort or a lot of time. Acknowledge their feelings (without joining their pity party). Offer them a piece of candy. Go to lunch with them. Be especially kind. Listen. Smile. Have any of these things (or a hundred other similar things) ever improved your attitude? Of course they have. And these things can make a difference for those around you as well. Make their day!

Turn the Tide

Is the glass half full or half empty? Most situations can be seen from more than one perspective. If your environment is negative, you know which perspective people will be seeing things from. If that is what people are seeing, and how they are responding, you can turn the tide. Ask questions that help people see things from a new perspective. It might take you awhile to build the habit of finding a new, more positive perspective, especially if your environment or co-workers are perpetually negative or cynical. Being the voice of a new perspective can help turn the tide.

Don’t be a Carrier

Some people are carriers of a virus or other trait, even though they don’t have the symptoms themselves. Are you a carrier of the negativity, even if you aren’t especially negative yourself? Carriers sympathize with the instigators of negativity. Even if they don’t agree, they don’t disagree. By being vocal or taking action (from the other four suggestions in this article), you stop being a carrier, stop being a victim, and are taking action to overcome, reduce the impact of, or eliminate the negativity.

Be a Duck

Just because someone is being negative, doesn’t mean it has to impact you. You always have the choice of how the attitudes of others will impact you. Water runs off a duck’s back - even when there is water all around them. They have been equipped with the ability to feel the rain without getting wet. Think of negativity like rain, and be a duck!

Learn Something New

Negativity is often borne of stagnation - when we are growing we generally have a more positive view of things. Feeling the effects of negativity? Start learning something new. Maybe that means learning about a new procedure that another organization uses that might alleviate some of the frustration in your work group. Maybe it means learning more about the big picture goals of your organization so that you can see how your work fits in. Or maybe you choose to learn something new that is totally unrelated to the source of the negativity.

I opened this article talking about overcoming negativity whether you were the source or the target. Perhaps the five steps above seem to be more about dealing with negativity created by others. While each of these steps can definitely help you in that situation, each of these suggestions also will help you as an individual when you recognize yourself becoming negative. They all will help you overcome negativity - to create a more productive and positive work environment - regardless of the source of the negative attitude.

These five steps make it sound simple. It may be simple, but it’s not easy. And you won’t change all the negativity around in you or even two days. Don’t let that discourage you or be a cause of your own negativity! Some of the advice above will help you reduce your negativity immediately, but all of these suggestions when applied to others will require time and patience. Trust me, it will be worth the effort.

About the author: Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To subscribe to his weekly e-newsletter, Unleashing Your Remarkable Potential, and claim a free gift visit: The Kevin Eikenberry Group can be reached at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.