10 Ways to Overcome Negativity at Work

Jane confided, “I feel like an enthusiastic puppy with all kinds of ideas and possibilities, but when I go to share them, there’s always someone who stomps on my tail.” John chimed in, “I know exactly what she means, everyone around here is just so negative. I’m beginning to wonder why I bother.” Perhaps you’ve felt that way too. It can be tough to stay motivated in a negative workplace.

“Just think of any negativity that comes at you as a raindrop falling in the ocean of your bliss.” -Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

10 Ways to Overcome Negativity at Work

  1. Make a list of what you like most about your job. Share it with others. Ask them what they like most about their jobs.
  2. Ask people why they work. In a negative environment, the answer may seem obvious—“For the paycheck, stupid”—but take it a step further. Do they work to support their sick mom? To pay back student loans? To save for their children’s education? Because they enjoy helping customers? Reconnecting to the purpose of work can help make the smaller annoyances less frustrating.
  3. Call out negativity. When you see negative thinking or actions, talk to the person privately to call it out, particularly if other leaders are involved. When negative attitudes and talk are all around, it’s tempting to ignore it. Raise the bar and change the conversation.
  4. Rise above the drama. Refuse to get sucked into the rumors and gossip. Respond to your team’s concerns with transparency and candor. Be the one who people know they can trust for a straight answer.
  5. Find kindred spirits. Not everyone is negative, although it can feel that way at times. Look around and find other folks trying to change the scene for the better. There is strength in numbers. Look outside your organization as well.
  6. Create an “envelope of excellence” or cultural oasis. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to fix the overall culture. Start with your own team and do what you can to make it feel better to come to work.
  7. Find reasons to celebrate. With all the negativity, it’s easy to overlook the good. Go out of your way to recognize and celebrate small wins. Substitute weak phrases like “No problem” with more enthusiastic words like “I’d be happy to.”
  8. See barriers as a challenge. Encourage your team to embrace the problems they see as opportunities and challenges to learn and grow. Recap learning along the way to help them feel a sense of positive momentum even during the most challenging times.
  9. Laugh more. I had one colleague who would respond to the company’s most ridiculous political nonsense by reminding the team, “It’s all comedy.” Step back and recognize how ridiculous some behavior is. You’ll create a healthy distance from which to respond more appropriately.
  10. Hold deeper developmental conversations. In periods of uncertainty, people yearn for a sense of control and connection. Take your developmental conversations to the next level. Ask your team and your peers about their hopes and dreams, what motivates them, and what scares them. Show up as a real human being caring about other real human beings.

Don’t let the naysayers win. Be the positive spark that ignites possibilities in others.

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