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How to Stay Positive in a Negative Workplace

How to Stay Positive in a Negative Workplace

Sarita Maybin | Payscale

Thus, my new “moonlight” as a part time Mary Kay Cosmetics consultant was created. I remember my academic colleagues teasing, “You’re peddling lipsticks? Everything is so pink! And, so perky!” My reply: “I need pink and perky to counteract the negativity! Plus, it is my back up plan. What’s yours?”

Even though some of my colleagues would not have chosen the same alternate job that I did, they did understand that it was really about having options. That’s what keeps you from feeling like your back is against the wall and you have nowhere to go. Have you ever noticed the most negative people are those who feel that they have no choices? They feel stuck. When you think about a current unsatisfactory situation that you’re in, what are YOUR options?

Get a life!

Several years ago I had an opportunity to conduct training for a large organization know for its conflict and workplace drama. “Take names!” my client told me. I was puzzled by this request. Apparently, he wanted me to take down the name of anyone in the training who seemed particularly “volatile.” I didn’t fully embrace this idea, but proceeded with the training.

About half way through the day-long workshop, one of the men in that day’s group of 30 participants, said, “You know, Sarita, when I’m laying awake at night, I think about this place….When I’m at the grocery store, I think about this place….When I’m walking down the street, I think about this place.” As I’m listening to him, the thought crosses my mind, “Where’s my pen and paper? I need to write this man’s name down!” As my 16 year old daughter would have said, “He was creeping me out!”

Just as I was contemplating my next move, the other 29 workshop participants shouted at this man in unison, as though they had choreographed it: “GET A LIFE!” I could not have said it better myself. Speaking as a recovering workaholic, I know first hand that when all you do is work, every little job related problem or disappointment looms larger than life. You end up like this man, thinking about your work in the grocery store because you have nothing else to fill your thoughts.

By the way, I did not the man’s name down. The group was quite generous in helping me engage him in a discussion of possibilities for broadening the scope of his life beyond work. The goal is to not have all of your “emotional eggs in one basket.”

In fact research has shown that people who have balanced lives—family, career, hobbies, friends—fare better, because any time one area is not going well, you can look to another area to bolster your confidence, self esteem and sense of well-being.

So, if you’re experiencing negativity at work—or elsewhere—don’t be contaminated by it. Instead, remember to ask yourself the 3 P questions, counteract the negativity with positive experiences and get a life!

Sarita Maybin is an award-winning speaker whose audiences have fun learning to stay positive, handle communication challenges and work together better. Contact her at, or visit