5 Ways to Stay Positive in a Negative Workplace

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It's easy to be positive in a positive environment. It's when things are emotionally draining and negative that you're challenged to behave differently. But you have the opportunity to be the beacon of light for others around you. By your actions and responses, you can demonstrate and teach others how to behave in an appropriate, positive and professional manner.

Positive energy catches on just as quickly as negative energy. Sometimes people are simply stuck in a habit or pattern of behavior and are accustomed to acting a certain way. If the environment is really caustic, then it's what people are used to and may be all they know.

It takes some time and effort as well as a commitment to do something differently to create sustainable change. You must be willing to identify and stop tolerating what's not working, do the right thing even if it's initially unpopular and then teach others to do the same.

Here are five ways you can be a positive force in your workplace:

The First Step Is Awareness

Recognize the negativity around you. Sometimes you can even feel your energy being drained by the words being spoken. If it feels bad or uncomfortable, then it's negative. These feelings are a form of intelligence similar to a tap on the shoulder letting you know something is not right. If you can identify what is happening, you can make good choices about handling it.

It All Starts with You

In what ways are you contributing to the negativity around you? Are you listening to gossip or participating in conversations where the only focus is to denigrate, diminish or criticize? Language matters. Everything you say has an impact, and when you say something negative, not only does it dishonor the person you're speaking about as well as the person you're speaking with, it makes you feel bad even if you don't realize it. Learn to respect people's humanity and their right to be themselves. Complaining without end does not focus on creating solutions; rather, its impact is only to perpetuate and magnify the problem, wasting everyone's precious time and energy.

Speak Up

Tell the other person how you feel by saying, "This doesn't work for me." It's nonjudgmental, since you're making it about you, not them. Also, people often don't realize they are being negative. Point it out in a gentle, caring way: "Do you realize you are complaining?" Just bringing it to their attention can be enough to shift the conversation. Over time, people will learn what they can and cannot discuss with you, and it will stop being an issue. If you say nothing, your silence conveys permission to continue.

Be Constructive, Positive, Meaningful and Beneficial

What is the point or purpose of what you're saying? Is it to hurt or help? And at the end of the conversation, is there an action step to take? Constructive conversations are empowering and leave people a little better off from having participated in them. Become the kind of person who takes your time and words seriously.

Praise and Acknowledge

It's amazing what a few words of praise and acknowledgement can do. You want to be the kind of person people gravitate to because they know they will be uplifted by you, not put down or drained of life-sustaining energy. In short, you want people to feel good after being in your presence.

No matter what is going on around you, you control your inner environment and how you choose to respond to external events and situations. It's your responsibility to become the kind of person you enjoy being and with whom others enjoy being around.

It takes a true leader to walk a path different from the crowd. So when others are negative, stretch your boldness muscles and be positive in spite of what others do or think. It's the only way to create a ripple of change. And if each of us does our part, then slowly but surely, we will make a difference in our work environment and the larger community.

Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN is the Coach with Nurturing Your Success Inc., working with people who are frustrated, stressed and unhappy and who are ready to give up being overwhelmed for the time, peace and happiness they desire.

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