When most people look for a job, they’re not just looking for a paycheck—they’re looking for a positive work environment and a good company culture. Working with a motivated group of people who take pride in their work can help motivate you to be productive and make you look forward to coming in to work every day. But what happens when the opposite occurs and you end up in a work environment where most of the people around you have a negative outlook?
There are a number of reasons why a work environment can turn negative. Common causes are distrust between coworkers and management, a general lack of motivation due to poor supervision or work dissatisfaction, economic hardships that are impacting the company, and personal problems.
Being surrounded by negativity can be exhausting, and letting it get to you can significantly increase your stress level. Too much stress is linked to many health risks, including headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.
Just knowing those health risks might make you anxious and depressed, but if you can maintain a positive outlook at work, you’ll greatly improve your chances for physical and mental wellbeing. You’ll also set a good example for your coworkers, which can lead to a less toxic work environment. Here are a few tips for staying positive even when your coworkers aren’t.
1. Recognize types of negative thinking. It’s important that you recognize the main thought patterns that negative thinkers fall into so that you can tell when you’re thinking this way and actively work to change your outlook. There are four major mindsets of negative thinkers:
a. Filtering: Seeing only the negative in a situation.
b. Personalizing: Seeing everything bad that happens as directly related to you.
c. Catastrophizing: Always expecting the worst outcome.
d. Polarizing: Seeing everything as a clear cut, black and white issue (e.g. “I’m right, my boss is wrong.”).
2. Remain professional. If a coworker starts gossiping about office politics or complaining about a meeting you both have to attend, don’t get drawn into negativity but rather politely let them know that you don’t enjoy these types of discussions and want to keep office conversations professional.
3. Take a break. If office negativity is getting you down, take a 15 minute break and go for a walk outside. Getting fresh air and being physically removed from the negative environment can help refresh you so that you’ll be able to keep up your positive outlook when you get back to the office. Try to use this time to relax and meditate, mindful meditation is the best remedy for stress.
4. Discuss negativity with a supervisor. If you feel like your work environment is becoming hostile to the point that it’s harmful to you and your coworkers, it might be time to talk to a supervisor. Don’t name names, but let your supervisor know that the office has been struggling with morale and ask for advice about how to improve the situation. Your supervisor may even be able to implement a wellness program or other solutions if they recognize the morale issues as stemming from a lack of communication between management and employees.
5. Remind yourself that you’re in charge of how you feel. It can be easy to start thinking that your own increasing negativity at work is because of the negative environment, but casting blame isn’t going to solve the problem. Remind yourself that at the end of the day, you’re in charge of your own outlook and you’re capable of remaining positive.
Still having trouble staying positive? Maybe you’ll be more motivated to practice positive thinking if you know about some of the health benefits positivity provides. Positive psychology research teaches us that people who identify themselves as positive thinkers have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, tend to have lower blood pressure, don’t get sick as often, and are better equipped for coping with stress and hardship. Those seem like pretty good reasons for you and your coworkers to practice positivity.