Are You in a Negative Work Environment? 5 Tips to Change It
by Catherine Pratt
Whether you love your job or hate going to work every day can depend a lot on whether you work in a positive or a negative work environment. We’ve all been in the situation where we seem to be working with dysfunctional people and in an area that’s more toxic than a nuclear waste dump. It’s frustrating and draining and a lot of the time you end up thinking that you’re going to have to find another job. But, there will always be negative people everywhere you go. The trick is to learn how to deal with those people. Part of the frustration comes from feeling that you are helpless to do anything. This article will show that you do have the power to change your environment.
1. What’s your own mindset?
There is an African proverb that says,
"when you cross someone on your path who is more committed to their hatred than you are to your love, then their hatred will take the place of your love.”
The moral of this proverb is that you need to make the commitment to yourself that you will walk with positive thoughts and have joy for life. Don’t let the negative people bring you down. It’s very easy to get caught in that trap. Step 1 is to be aware of your thoughts and try to focus on the positive. Listen to your thoughts, are they positive or negative? If they’re negative, try to look at the situation from a different angle and make it a positive. This gets easier with practice. Also, just because everyone around you is unhappy doesn’t mean you have to be. This can be tough to do but it’s definitely worth it. If you can train yourself to be positive in these types of situations, you will be able to deal with almost any situation you come across. Remember, most of the time environments are all in how you think about them. If you think it’s a horrible place to be and there’s no hope, that’s exactly how it will be. If you look at it as a learning experience and a challenge to come up with meaningful solutions, you will be able to find the answers.
2. Are you a part of the problem or the solution?
Negativity quickly spreads from one person to another. If you constantly complain to others about how bad it is, then you become a part of the problem because you're adding fuel to an already depressing situation.
For example, is there someone on your team that drives you completely crazy? They are always complaining about everything, don’t want things to change, constantly put down others, never seem to do their fair share of work yet are always griping that they’re overworked. Sound familiar? The more you talk about this person to other members on your team, people in your organization, even to your friends and family, you and everyone you complain to, are all becoming just like your co-worker. Pessimistic and unhappy. Things get worse and worse instead of better. It’s like the African proverb, you have become committed to the same attitude as the person you are spending so much time complaining about. The more you talk about them the more power you are giving them and in the end the person you hurt the most is yourself.
3. Are you waiting for someone else to fix the situation?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your boss should take care of the situation. So, you wait for them to do something. They are after all the one in charge, right? Wrong. Dealing with personalities is one of the hardest jobs a manager has to deal with. A lot of managers don’t understand why people just can’t do their jobs and why there’s so much personal confrontation. They’re not trained to deal with emotions and they may not have a clue on how to handle it. They’re trained to deal with issues like productivity and the bottom line, not personality conflicts. If you can suggest solutions then you’re not only solving your own problems but you’re going to be viewed as a much more valuable employee. This also has the benefit of making you realize that you’re not a helpless victim. You have the power to make your own changes and you’re the one in control of how you view the situation and how you handle it.
4. Step Back, Take a Look at the View
Say, that same co-worker in the above example snaps at you and never has anything nice to say to you. Your feelings are hurt and you don’t understand why they always seem to say such mean things to you. Take a step back and think about why the person may be behaving the way they do. There could be a lot of reasons. It could be anything from family issues to the fact that they feel they’re not living up to their potential and feel stuck in their current job. It could be something as simple as they feel like they’re being excluded by the group and they just need to be included in more conversations and coffee breaks. Most likely it doesn't really have anything to do with you. That person may just be in a negative mental space and everything in their world is lousy. It wouldn't matter who you were they would be making the same snide comments. It’s not personal against you. It’s just how they view everything around them. It can be hard for people to get out of a negative groove when they’ve been that way for awhile. It’s like the saying that someone sees events around them with "rose coloured glasses” except in this case they have "mud coloured" glasses.
If you can maintain a positive attitude it won’t affect you as much. You’ll know it's a reflection of where the negative person is at, not you. They’re negative energy and they’re looking to attract more negative energy. If you're positive, you're on a different level. If you try to look at the big picture and think where the comments are coming from it makes it much easier.
Everything is all in how you look at it and how you decide to let it affect you. You have the power to choose. You can learn from it or you can just let it eat you up. It's completely your choice.
5. Quit fighting the symptoms, go for the cause
Positive energy can spread just as quickly as negative energy. You just need to start the ball rolling. People get trapped in the victim mode and feel that there’s nothing they can do. If they start to see that changes can happen they may be more willing to come up with their own solutions to add to yours. The majority of people want to be positive but just don’t know how.
A good way to start is to come up with solutions to solve some of the problems you see occurring. It’s really important for you to try to find the root cause of the situation and not get caught up in fighting just the symptoms. For example, one person is always complaining that they’re overworked, the phone is ringing off the hook and that there is no one to help them. Your first thought might be that your company needs to hire another person to help out. But, this probably isn’t the root cause and in most companies it’s probably hard to find the extra dollars in the budget to hire another person. Plus, you’re back to expecting someone else to solve the problem.
Here’s another option. Track the phone calls. What are most of the calls in regards to? Are most of the calls related to the hours that your business is open, people unable to find the product information they need, people trying to book appointments? Once you know that, try to find alternatives for people to get the information they need without having to make a phone call. For example, could the information be posted on a web site, are there brochures you could give people, is the information people are receiving too confusing and just needs to be re-written?
Try to determine if there are things you can do to alleviate the real problems. Can processes be streamlined, can procedures be made more efficient? It’s amazing how much difference even one little change can make to improve a situation. You just need to start looking and figuring out some possible answers.
Whether you love your job or hate it is really going to depend on how you view it and what you’re willing to do about it. You have much more power than you may think. Instead of feeling like it’s hopeless, view it as a challenge to actually make a real difference in your workplace. You’ll appreciate the results as will your co-workers. You definitely have the power to change a negative environment into a positive, fun place to be. You can do it.
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