Shake It Off: How to Overcome Negativity in the Workplace

Some people can be a grey cloud over your day. It sounds a tad harsh but it’s true, especially at work. You may encounter a particular colleague who always finds something to complain about or the one that constantly wants to rain on your parade. Whatever their speciality seems to be, it all boils down to one thing: negativity.

Although you might be able to tolerate it, you’ll soon find that negativity in the workplace can suck the positivity and energy out of even the chirpiest of folk. This can then have a knock-on effect on your professional success and your personal life.

It is therefore essential to know how to combat this type of counter-productive behaviour before it drags you down, too. The chances are that this type of person makes up a very small proportion of your workplace population. However, learning to counteract negative attitudes is a great skill to develop because, sadly, we will always encounter those who struggle to be positive throughout our lives.

The key thing to remember is that you can’t control how people are, however you are entirely in control of how you deal with their toxic vibes! Here’s how:

Let them get it off their chest

Sometimes people just need to rant and rave to get something out of their system. If you’re unlucky enough to be the person they choose to let rip to, listen. Acknowledge what they’re saying, but don’t get drawn in. Once they’ve cooled down a little, see if you can help them and if not, simply letting them vent could have made the world of difference to their day.

However, this is only acceptable in rare instances; if someone wants to chew your ear off every time they see you, you don’t have to put up with it. Be polite but try to extract yourself from the situation and conversation as quickly as possible. Saying you have a meeting to prepare for or a phone call to make should be enough for them to take the hint!
Don’t engage with negativity

There are ways you can encourage pessimistic co-workers to be more positive without having to explicitly point out the fact that they’re ‘negging’ everyone else out. You can ask about what’s going well with them and make sure that you keep conversation topics light-hearted.

If you need to distance yourself every now and then, there’s nothing wrong with this. Putting a physical barrier between you and your negative colleagues, for example headphones, will give you the space you need. This even applies when it comes to break times; go for a walk, eat somewhere else or make a personal phone call for a bit of respite.

In rare instances where it gets too much to take, approach a superior in the office to provide constructive feedback about the individual/s in question (be diplomatic – don’t let this turn into a personal attack).
Try to bring the positivity back

Be the embodiment of positivity in the workplace! Try to always have something constructive to contribute and endeavour to make your negative colleagues see the silver linings.

Another clever way of trying to weed out negativity is with positive reinforcement: only give short responses during negative conversations or gossip, but give your full attention and show real interest when your colleagues are being positive.

Surround yourself with positive co-workers whenever possible, this will help to dilute the draining effect of naysayers in the office. If necessary, don’t approach a negative colleague alone; bringing another person into the interaction could alter their behaviour, or if not, at least with someone positive on your side their bad vibes won’t be so hard to take.

Another important thing to remember is that what someone negative may say against you isn’t personal, that’s just the way they are. Aim to see through the cloud of negativity as there may be a point that they’re trying to make. Don’t let them get into your head!

There are many different types of ‘toxic co-workers’ you may come across throughout your career. Have a look at the infographic below to learn more about each type and how to handle them:

Overcome negativity infographic

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