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How to Stay Positive in a Negative Workplace

How to Stay Positive in a Negative Workplace

Sarita Maybin | Payscale

“How do I keep the contagious effect of negativity from rubbing off on me?” is the question that I’m asked most frequently by my seminar participants. My reply: The Three P’s. These were inspired by the work of Dr. Martin Seligman who has extensively studied what makes some people positive despite the most dire circumstances. Likewise, what makes some people consistently negative no matter what positive things may come their way? The key is to ask yourself the following questions.

The Three P’s

Is it personal? When the company downsizes, when the boss throws a tantrum or when the co-worker in the next cubicle grumbles in response to your morning greeting, ask yourself: “Are any of these really about me?” Most of the time you’ll discover that in fact you cannot—and should not—own that negativity. A comment in a popular women’s magazine was quite telling. It said “You would be depressed if you knew how SELDOM people were really thinking about you.” In other words, it is NOT about you as much as you may think it is.

Is it permanent? The popular expression “This too shall pass.” applies here. The extent to which you can see the “light at the end of the proverbial tunnel” is the extent to which you can remain positive…in spite of all. On the other hand, those who dwell on the negative side are likely to think “I see the light at the end of the tunnel and it looks like an oncoming train to me”.

Does it matter in the big picture? A man in one of my seminars told me that, unlike his colleagues who had been sent to my seminar to get their negative attitudes “fixed”, he was attending to learn how to “fix” his boss. When I inquired about the boss’ shortcomings he said, “My boss chews me out in the hallway daily, just for sport!” I asked how he managed to stay positive in spite of this daily Dilbert-style dressing down. He explained, “When my boss is screaming, turning bright red, with veins bulging in his forehead, I simply look at him, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, ‘When they record the history of time, will THIS event be documented? NO!’ “

Counteract the negatives

In the mid 1980’s I was working as a department director at a medium sized state university. At that time, most of the staff felt that universities were immune to the downsizing trend that had begun gaining momentum. So you can imagine our shock when a newly hired university president began slashing jobs campus-wide. Fear and panic set in. A dark cloud hung over the campus. I recall that everyone I encountered seemed to have an undercurrent of gloom and doom in their tone.

It occurred to me this was a situation where I could not change the negativity. My only recourse was to COUNTERACT it. You can do the same. Find other ways to counteract the non-negotiable negatives. Better yet, find a positive option that might also provide a financial fall back plan in case you lose your job!