How to break the cycle with negative co-workers

Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder Writer

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It only takes one person to derail a good day at work. But it also only takes one person to put that day back on track. While you can't control how others act, you can choose how you react to negativity and whether you bring a positive attitude to your workplace.

Dealing with negativity
Working with a negative person can drain you of your energy and enjoyment. How can you change the relationship? Darcy Eikenberg, leadership and workplace coach, founder of Red Cape Revolution and author of "Bring Your Superpowers to Work: Your Guide to More Clarity, Confidence and Control," shares some tips for changing the relationship:

  • First, get clear. "'Is it this person, or is it me?' Often the things we dislike most in others are the things we dislike most about ourselves. For example, one of my coaching clients hated how focused her [vice president] was on revenue, ignoring other achievements. In working through actions to change her experiences at work, she realized she measured her own success by her income -- just like that VP. Discovering this, her anger toward the VP's negativity fled when she started focusing on things that she wanted to value more, like family, personal growth or happiness."
  • Say what you need to say. "The mistake we make in dealing with negative people and situations is that we don't confront [them] early and then let all our banked frustration come out at once. As a co-worker, you have every right to point out negative behavior as it happens and make alternative suggestions. But it doesn't have to be a judgmental 'you're wrong and I'm right' statement. You can ask a question to find out more about their perspective, such as, 'I noticed that no matter what our results, you always seem to find something wrong. What are you seeing that I'm not?' Many times negative people just need a mirror to show them how negative they've become."
  • Make a plan. "If it's really toxic, make a plan. Most people just sit there and accept their circumstances. Those are the people who are exhausted and complaining all the time. Don't be one of those people."

A negative relationship with a co-worker or boss doesn't have to be permanent. Honestly evaluate your expectations and perceptions of your fellow employees. If they're truly negative, it's time to speak up tactfully and change the dynamic. If you need guidance or support, reach out to your human-resources department.

Focusing on the positive
Having a positive attitude is just as important as confronting negativity in the workplace. "Staying positive is fundamental to being engaged at work," says Mary Hladio, president of Ember Carriers, an organization that focuses on helping leaders and teams become more effective by improving their people skills.

Hladio shares tips on how to stay positive in uncomfortable workplace situations:

  • Check your attitude. This is yours to control. Being optimistic keeps you happy; being happy provides the energy to overcome challenges and is attractive to others. You choose how you react to situations, so choose to be positive.
  • Take a break. Unplugging from the daily grind will make you more productive and positive once you return to work.
  • Stay healthy. Feel good from the inside out. Don't skip lunch or pig out on junk food. Eating at the right time and eating foods that are good for you can help you stay positive at work -- an empty stomach may unleash your grumpiness.
  • Draw energy from others. Every office is going to have at least one negative person. Do what you can to surround yourself with positive people who can be a boost when you can't do it by yourself.
  • Spread kindness. We all feel positive when we do something nice for others. It contributes to a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction. Plus, it's contagious.
  • Use your strengths. According to Martin Seligman, a well-known psychologist and authority on the power of positive psychology, if you know your strengths and are using them for the greater good, you are much more likely to have a happy, meaningful life.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. When we're dancing at our own pity party, we forget about everything we have to be grateful for. Start small and work your way up to bigger things. If you're facing a challenge, be grateful for the opportunity to learn from it.

No matter your role or level, you can choose how to react to what's going on around you. Push away negativity to make way for positivity. Not only will your co-workers and boss appreciate your presence at work, but you'll enjoy your presence, too.

Susan Ricker is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.



Last Updated: 26/11/2012 - 4:54 PM


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