Negativity in the work place can be like a bad virus. When working with a small team, it’s important that you nip negativity in the bud as early as possible. If you see a potential outbreak and fail to jump in and take care of matters you can often find yourself knee deep in, well, something you don’t want to be knee deep in. Once negativity gets out, it becomes that much more difficult to get back under control. It soon spreads from one person to the next to the next and soon you realize that you’ve got an office full of Negative Nancyies with bad morale. (No offense to anyone named Nancy!)
What a lot of people fail to realize is that attitude is a choice. We have a choice in any given situation, toward any particular person or about life in general to choose to be either positive or negative about it.
Now we may not wake up in the morning and say to ourselves, “I’m going to be a grumpy SOB today.” But when someone brings a bad attitude to the office, it was their choice to do so. It’s up to each person to decide how they’ll react as life takes its course.
It ain’t always easy being nice
We are all negative from time to time and we all have our downer moments, but in the office, especially where a few people are sharing a single work area, constant negativity can have a drastic effect on productivity. If not dealt with, it doesn’t take long before a negative perception soon begins to take hold and spread from the source to others in the office until, rightly or wrongly, the office is infected with a particularly harmful viewpoint.
While thinking positively is a choice, for some, it can often be the more difficult choice. This is usually due to a string of other choices made previously. If you fill your mind with enough negativity it becomes difficult to think positively. If that’s you (and it can certainly be me at times) you’ve got to break the cycle of negativity. But in order to think positively one much choose to do so. You have to make a deliberate choice think positive about things that you have a built-in tendency not to. You must also choose to fill your mind with positive things. You have to choose to shut out negative words and influences and choose to stop and think before reacting in order to react properly.
This is a daily process. It’s not something you choose once, but you have to choose every day. While nobody wakes up and chooses to be a grump, we can wake up and choose to be positive. After reading the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, I made a concerted effort to be a more positive person in the office. I’m not a negative person per se but I am one that likes things to go my way (read: control freak). Initially, I did great at lengthening my fuse, reacting less abrasively and letting things that annoyed me just roll off my shoulders. But then I stopped trying. I stopped making the effort assuming that it would all come naturally. It didn’t.
My fuse once again became shorter, my annoyances more obvious and the way I would talk to my employees slightly less friendly. But here again, I realized that I could be handling things better. Not making a concentrated decision to act in a positive manner was affecting my interaction with my team. And it was affecting my team member’s interaction with each other. I realized again, things had to change.
Changing negativity requires changing our perspective
While we all have our justifications for being negative (I generally find it a source of humor) most often we just need to look at things from a different perspective in order to change the negative into a positive. In fact, things that we often assume are negative about other people, we spin into positive traits for ourself. Here is a fun little bit found in John Maxwell & Jim Dornan’s book, Becoming a Person of Influence.
When the other fellow takes a long time, he’s slow.
When I take a long time, I’m thorough.
When the other fellow doesn’t do it, he’s lazy.
When I don’t do it, I’m busy.
When the other fellow does something without being told, he’s overstepping his bounds.
When I do it, that’s initiative.
When the other fellow overlooks a rule of etiquette, he’s rude.
When I skip a few rules, I’m original.
When the other fellow pleases the boss, he’s a brown-noser.
When I please the boss, it’s cooperation.
When the other fellow gets ahead, he’s getting the breaks.
When I manage to get ahead, that’s just the reward for hard work.
If we can all start thinking about others the way we do ourselves, we’ll be a lot better off. Instead of thinking of your fellow co-workers as losers, suckups and flakes, look at things from your own perspective. It might give you a whole new perspective.
Overall, though, we just need to start being more positive. Just remember, though that while negativity comes easy, being positive is the more difficult choice. and you’ve got to choose to be positive today, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day and so on.