How to Handle Negativity in the Workplace

October 1, 2014

While it can be challenging enough to deal with friends or family members who are downers, negativity in the workplace can be even more difficult to wrangle because, most of the time, you can’t just walk away. It is your job and you have things to get done.

A negative work environment can interfere with day to day business including creativity, motivation, teamwork, and most of all, communication. There are a lot of different factors in keeping that negative energy from spiraling out of control. Is it the person? Is it the place? Is it their personal life spilling over? Is it YOU?

Here are some tips for keeping your sanity and possibly even helping a coworker or two. After all, maybe someone will benefit from your positive energy and learn a few things about themselves.

Is it Debbie Downer or Negative Nelly?
There are different types of negative people, so the best way to handle the situation may vary. This article helps you sort out what type you are dealing with and how to handle it.

Don’t tell me to be positive!
A recent study lead by a Michigan State University psychologist showed that negative thinkers don’t actually have the ability to, or rather have difficultly to think positive.

"The worriers actually showed a paradoxical backfiring effect in their brains when asked to decrease their negative emotions," Moser said. "This suggests they have a really hard time putting a positive spin on difficult situations and actually make their negative emotions worse even when they are asked to think positively."

Are you part of the problem?
It’s been found that positive thinkers live a healthier lifestyle and are ultimately happier. For those out there who can’t help but think the glass is always half empty, try looking at it another way. Your stress level will drop if you look at things in a problem solving manner rather than as a lost cause. Ask for help when it’s needed. Take more time on a task or plan your day differently.  It’s a waste of energy to be negative all the time and it can be exhausting not only mentally but physically. If you are spending all your time looking at how terrible a situation or person is, you don’t have the energy to enjoy any compliments or good things. You can’t truly enjoy life.

If all else fails...
If someone is having a bad day and the negativity is situational, try to be empathetic. You can try to help them, especially if it is a work problem and directing them to a superior or human resources can help. You could also simply remove yourself from their space for the time being.

If your coworker is a stream of negativity day in and day out, the best thing to do for yourself is distance yourself. It will keep you from taking on their stress and causing problems in your own productivity. Point out to them that you prefer to speak positively about your job and not get pulled into anything like gossip. If the problem persists, you may need to speak to your superior or human resources about the situation.

There is no reason for an outside influence to affect your job. Take responsibility for yourself and create the work environment that suits you best.