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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Practical Ways to Reverse Negativity at Work

Do you ever feel surrounded by negativity at work? Do you ever feel like Jane or John?

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 amidst a sea of negativity at work.

“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

If you’re surrounded by negativity at work try these simple techniques.

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 work 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 them. 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.Building Team Culture

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.

To reverse negativity at work, 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 pWinning-Well-leadership-developmentositive spark that ignites possibilities in others.

Your turn.

What are your best techniques for overcoming negativity at work?

See Also: How to Handle Your Bosses Negative Feeback (Even if You Disagree).


Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Miller

    I’ve felt like Jane so many times… being surrounded by such negativity at work can be so demoralizing. This is a great list to overcome the situation. Thanks for sharing!

    • David Dye

      So true – and you’re definitely not alone!

      • Karin Hurt

        Thank you. Hang in there and find those kindred spirits. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  2. Michelle

    Thank you for this! These are great ways to start making shifts. Not only does negativity seem to make it harder to be innovative, but it is a huge energy drain for me too. Glad to know there are others out there thinking about this topic and striving to be a positive spark 🙂

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Michelle. And for all that you do to encourage courage and innovative thinking!


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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