I love many things about my job. The agency has a meaningful and worthwhile mission that I believe in. I share a mutual respect with my supervisor. I enjoy real friendships with a few of my coworkers and professionally appreciate many more. There are perks to my job: I can work from home sometimes, I’m off every other Friday, and I can exercise during business hours. And of course there are the actual benefits like health insurance and a retirement plan.
However, sometimes there is an undertow of pessimism in the office that drags me out into a sea of negativity. Once I’m so far gone, I feel stuck in a place I don’t want to be. A negative place. How can I save my generally cheerful disposition from drowning in office negativity?
First, allow me to clarify what I mean by office negativity as it is an imprecise term. For me, it is deeper than a coworker rolling his/her eyes as someone interjects a thought for the tenth time in as many minutes. It’s on another level than the audience members checking their phones during a presentation. It seems to stem from a lack of respect for one another, not as coworkers, but as people. While it can’t be measured, if you have ever described your work environment as being like high school, you might want to keep reading.
If you find yourself in this situation, the key is to save yourself. But how do you do that?
1. Remember you can only control your own contributions. This might be the best advice I’ve been given on this topic. It’s simple enough. Am I making positive contributions to the office? How am I reacting to people? If I’m rolling my eyes or making comments under my breath, I’m probably not putting my “glass is half full” foot forward.
2. Stay openly positive. This is also known as “fake it ‘til you make it.” If your positivity is being swept away, smile more. Compliment people. Write down three things that are great about your day, even if it’s the weather, what you’re having for lunch, or that you made the train this morning. Focusing on the positive, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will keep your focus off the negative.
3. Surround yourself with positivity. Seek out positive people. Eat lunch or go on walks with them. Decorate your space with objects, photos, and quotes that make you smile. Listen to music that brings you joy.
4. Remind yourself why you started. When I am overwhelmed with negativity, I think back to when I was first in this position and I had trouble sleeping because I was so excited for the next day. I was making an impact. By bringing that excitement and motivation into my daily life, I can submerge myself in work I enjoy instead of the drama that sometimes builds in an office.
5. Choose your battles. Not every thought I have should be voiced. Before I speak up, I ask myself, “What do I want as an outcome from this conversation?” If my answer is to prove someone wrong or belittle an idea then I consider staying quiet.
6. Don’t be afraid to speak up. In my own experiences, people have not elevated this to a supervisor as it is an undercurrent that runs through the office as opposed to someone’s specific action or inaction. However, problems may need to be addressed by a person higher up in the organization. If you think that is necessary for your situation, then you should do so.
Obviously every office is different and every person is different. These are the strategies I have used to maintain my positivity when the people around me are stuck in a pessimistic rut. The last thing I want is to let negativity mold me into exactly what I don’t want to be: a negative person.
Since everyone has his/her own approaches to combat office negativity, please inspire others by sharing those below!