The Possibility of Staying Positive at Work

Do you ever struggle to stay positive at work? Increasing demands on our time; never-ending to-do lists; constant changes in policies, mandates and expectations. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and give in to an impulse to complain about everything we have going on. Or even about the people around us who just don’t understand. Here’s the thing though, you are not improving things by focusing on the negative. Instead, you can learn to let things go, take direct action and stay positive at work.

Manage Yourself (and Be Kind!)

I am working in an intense environment of change right now. As the leader of our training department, my team and I are responsible for providing multiple classes for a large staff to prepare them for major system conversions this summer. As you can imagine, not everyone is thrilled about the impending change. I consider myself to be a pretty positive person. And yet in a recent conversation with the career coach, Sheppard Lake, it became apparent in a few minutes that I was allowing negativity in my environment to seep into my outlook. I was also putting extreme pressure on myself that I am prone to as a recovering perfectionist. Sheppard helped me press the reset button in my brain and helped me recommit to leading with positivity. Since then, I have implemented these strategies to help me stay on the right path:

  • Begin each day with a positive affirmation and gratitude practice before leaving the house.
  • Use a mindfulness app. Your phone can be set to play a reminder tone to check in and take a few deep breaths. If needed, I take a few minutes to meditate.
  • Make a short, manageable to-do list for each day. Include items from your longer ongoing list as well as pop-up demands. Seeing movement in the right direction, even on hectic days, helps me feel positive about where I am at the end of the day.
  • Practice self-talk before going into meetings where things could take a negative spin. I may try to redirect things, but I also have reminded myself that people are where they are. It makes it easier to let reactions roll off my back instead of taking things personally.

Complain to the Source

It might seem counterintuitive to advise people to complain, but when done correctly it is a force for positive change. In a recent article about why people complain about work, Peter Bregman talks about the emotional return people get when they complain. It usually starts with someone doing something that we find annoying or offensive or whatever. Then instead of taking a breath and managing our reaction, we just go wherever human nature takes us. However, actions motivated by reactive feelings are rarely positive for us or our team’s morale. Not only does complaining waste everyone’s time, it also gets in the way of trust and productive communication. Bregman’s advice? Go ahead and complain to the person who caused the complaint. And keep it positive.

  • Do it at the moment if appropriate.
  • Ask to talk with the person one-on-one soon after the incident.
  • If at first they don’t hear you, try again.
  • If the behavior continues you can take it to their boss.

Accentuate the Positive

Recently I received feedback from a new staffer that one of the trainers on my team is the most positive person he’s ever encountered. This pleased me on many levels because I recruited her into our department for this very reason. Also, at that moment I knew that she was in some pretty intense physical pain, but nobody in the class she was teaching could tell. I have witnessed her immovable positivity time and again. When priorities change at the last second, she smiles and gets it done. When a colleague is outright rude to her, she calls it a “spicy” interaction and keeps moving. She shared her top strategies for staying positive no matter what:

  • Stay centered on your “why” in your current assignment.
  • Try to view your job as more than a job; she views hers as a calling to make a positive impact in the lives of those around her.
  • Focus on the global vision and mission of your agency and how you can proactively move them forward.
  • Use prayer, meditation and/or whatever else helps you center and focus.

Positive Workers are Happy People

Staying positive at work will help you both at the office and at home. Your boss will appreciate your outlook at work and come to rely on you to drive team projects. And when you are maintaining positivity at work, you will go home with less stress at night. Being able to enjoy your downtime will help you arrive at work the next day with the positive outlook you need to succeed. It’s a win-win all around!

You might also like: 5 Ways to Create a Positive Work Environment

Gabrielle Wonnell is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Avatar photo Blake Martin

I love this post, Gabrielle! It’s so important to positively manage ourselves on a day-to-day basis, and as you note it often all comes back to the “why” of your work. I’ve had great success in creating daily to-do lists to remind myself regularly of progress made, and you hit the nail on the head with the word manageable- without this aspect to-do lists can easily devolve into something much less motivational.

Hope Marshall

Thank you Gabrielle! These are great reminders. We often know this information, but forget to apply it, especially during challenging times. I would also add the importance of having people you can trust, and “brainstorm” with, from time to time.