How to Overcome Workplace Negativity

  • Published on:
    May 19, 2020
  • Reading time by:
    4 minutes

Negativity runs rampant in an office environment. Whether you’re feeling low on your own accord or catching some heat from your boss for something that went wrong, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in a dark cloud of negative thinking. 

After a bad experience, it’s common to seek out a place to vent. We spend time recounting each moment to anyone who will listen, hoping this regurgitation of the situation will be therapeutic and make everything better. But, could all that negative talk actually lead to more issues? 

A study in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology suggests that not only can those temper driven conversations after a negative experience at work lead to more negativity, but it can hinder your performance for at least a day after it happens. 

We’ve all had those moments. A boss or coworker does something to agitate you and then you feel the need to tell another coworker, a friend, or a significant other. Imagine constant streams of negativity flowing from you to people you care about. It happens. Work life bleeds into home life and then suddenly brings down everyone and everything around you. 

So, how do you combat this attitude of negativity?

Simply learn to keep those negative thoughts to yourself. It may sound a bit unnerving if you are in a habit of sharing your feelings every time something goes awry, but silence is power during these times. 

Now, this isn’t to say that you should hold on to those negative moments until they are grudges that come steaming up once they’ve reached the boiling point. Instead, this same study says it’s all about being a good sport. 

Having an attitude of “sportsmanship” is defined as “tolerating less-than ideal circumstances or minor workplace distractions and discomforts without complaining.” The study suggests that “avoiding negative conversations immediately after a negative event can promote better psychological adjustment.”

Get back up, dust yourself off, and come back stronger.

When you’re facing frustrating moments, don’t get lost dwelling on the problem, refocus your attention and get back to work. A few things that can help include writing down your thoughts and throwing away the evidence or taking a few moments to meditate and let go of those feelings.

With that attitude of sportsmanship, you can actually improve your productivity, workplace happiness, and be more apt to stay in your position – or maybe get that promotion you’ve been seeking. It can even help to cultivate a more positive work environment by influencing the people around you.  

The best advice I ever received from an executive leader was this simple phrase: keep your head down and work hard. He had twenty years of experience in that company and I knew that these words would come in handy someday, so I put them in a little corner of my mind for when I’d need them again. 

Thankfully, I saved them because there were many times when I needed to pull it out of its little organizer drawer in my brain. There was a particular supervisor I worked for that made decisions that caused headaches, tears, anguish, and endless days of agony for many of his employees. 

He’d call us into a room where he’d ramble about why we were doing all the wrong things and needed to shift to another project to fix the mess. It would take a few weeks to reset our course of action, bin all the work we had done and setup a new plan.

I could have yelled, or cried, or challenged it, but in business, you have to learn to pick your battles wisely. I would recite in my mind that phrase – keep my head down and keep working. I avoided engaging in negative talk with my coworkers, put on a smile at the end of each meeting, and encouraged everyone to get to work as fast as possible.

After several rounds of this routine, my supervisor finally gave up trying to break us. We became more collaborative and the positive attitude encouraged him to listen to us more openly. We were able to finally complete a project with success and no one quit in the process. 

Agonizing over the situation

Realistically, there is nothing that can be done when someone, usually your boss, decides to pull a project after putting in hours of work. If the boss says to do it, then you must. Spending time agonizing over the situation only results in having to stay late to catch up or in someone breaking. Plus, that released negative energy only leads to feeling unmotivated and makes it much harder to accomplish anything.  

While bucking up and moving on from a negative situation never feels good for the ego, it will feel great long term. It does get easier over time. Plus, you’ll be an inspiration for others to continue working hard and make the team stronger for that in the end. 

Of course, it’s never good to stay in a situation where you feel like your supervisor or boss is bullying you, creating unnecessary pain or stress that is detrimental to your mental health or others’ well-being. Use caution in these situations and always utilize your Human Resources department when in need. 

Amy Villarreal Sifontes

Amy is the voice behind the DINK Co. empowering blog that focuses on the decision to live child free by choice. She encourages women to lead positive, conscious, and successful lives through her content. She is an aspiring author, public speaker and Digital Marketer by day. She has a Master’s Degree in Mass Communication and in progress to achieve a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA).

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