After our article on how to suffocate negativity, we found that an overwhelming number of our readers experience more negativity at work than anywhere else.
You might believe you have less control over your work environment than your home environment, but you always have control over your environment. You always get to choose who to surround yourself with. And if change needs to happen, you’re the best person for the job.
Managing negativity at work starts with you. If you’re allowing negative thoughts to run your workday, you won’t be able to produce change. Are you doing any of these things?
- Gossiping about coworkers
- Commiserating with colleagues when they complain about their jobs, bosses, or lives
- Complaining about your own job, boss, or life
- Using any means other than hard work to get ahead in the company
- Blaming anything other than work ethic if you aren’t getting ahead in the company
- Assuming the worst intentions about others instead of the best
If you’re doing any of these, then you have no power to produce change — yet.
Because your first job is to change yourself. And that’s okay. We all have to start somewhere, and the most important thing is that you’re aware enough to start. Whether you’re occasionally complaining or you take the cake on the whole list — there is no shame in self-improvement.
I’m going to provide you with a few simple exercises that can help you work on you and then work on work, creating the positive work experience that you want every day but are struggling to achieve.
Step 1: Work on Yourself First
On our first post on suffocating negativity, we talked about the rubber brand trick for self-accountability. That still stands; that’s still the first step:
- Simply put a rubber band on your wrist and start the timer (a real timer or a hypothetical timer).
- Challenge yourself to steer clear of negative thoughts and words for 24 hours.
- Stop negative thoughts in their tracks and replace them with positive ones.
- Drown negative friends and family members with positivity for the whole 24 hours.
- If you find yourself straying from your commitment, start over. Move the rubber band to your other hand and reset the timer.
Once you succeed at the 24-hour challenge, you can up the ante. Challenge yourself to five days, and then a week, and then a month. Soon you’ll find that you’ve developed a new habit: positivity. And once you’ve gotten yourself under control, you can address the place you spend much of your waking time — work.
P.S. Regular journaling can help you hold yourself accountable to your goal of suffocating negativity, too — you can use any plain notebook or our Happier Mind Journal.
Step 2: Work on Work
We tell ourselves all kinds of lies (yes, you heard that right) about our work. Like how we don’t get to choose our coworkers or we don’t have a say in our experiences or our workday is at the hands of someone else (and sometimes we tell ourselves that person is ruthless).
But the truth is that you are 100% accountable for your work environment. Sometimes this fact doesn’t feel good at first, but in time, it can feel like freedom. Because if you are 100% accountable, that means your negative coworker or power-hungry boss doesn’t get to make you feel any way except how you choose to feel.
So, if you’ve worked on yourself (that’s Step 1) and you’re developing positive habits but still feel like you’re entering into a negative, energy-sucking workplace every day, it’s time for Step 2: work on work.
There are all kids of ways you can modify your work environment, inspiring your team members to think and speak positively. One great way is the clothes pin activity we’re about to introduce. You should first share the idea with your manager or leader with the hope that he or she will lead it (because leadership buy-in can make a world of difference), but if the “leader” won’t take on this project, you can still ask for permission to get it started yourself.
Here are the rules:
- Buy clothes pins (one for each participant).
- At the start of the week, each person will receive one clothes pin to be worn (on their persons) at the office during business hours.
- If you give off any negativity, the person nearest to you can take your clothes pin(s) — that means all of them that you are wearing.
- If you lose your pins, you’re not out of the game, because any time you hear negativity you have the opportunity to take a coworker’s clothes pins. So, everyone’s in the game until the end of the week.
- “Negativity” can be verbal, written, or non-verbal. It can include complaining, gossip, or however your group defines it. Make sure you outline and communicate the rules before you start.
- In addition to taking someone’s pins, you can give constructive feedback as long as that feedback includes something positive and something actionable.
- The object of the game is to see who has the most clothes pins at the end of the week.
- Decide on a prize for the winner. Give a special award to those who manage to keep their original clothes pin the entire week.
Remember, you can’t control everybody. Those who aren’t on board don’t have to play, but don’t let that prevent you from working toward positive change. There is power in numbers and before long, the reluctant Debbie Downers will find they can’t get commiseration and they can’t fit in unless they join the team in their positivity efforts.
Misery loves company — and by taking away the company, you can slowly eliminate the misery.
The Bottom Line on a Toxic Work Environment
You get to choose your attitude, your work experience, and even your coworkers (by choosing where you work and leaving negative environments). You don’t get to choose how your coworkers think and behave, but you have the power to make a difference, changing lives in the process — including your own.
While these strategies can help you change the culture in nearly any workplace, never forget that you have the power to choose your work setting. If your coworkers aren’t jumping on the positivity train alongside you despite your best efforts and all the patience in the world, then it’s time to consider other opportunities.
Again, we tell ourselves a lot of lies about our jobs, like, “I’ll never find another job this great,” or, “I can’t afford to leave,” or, “My boss will prevent me from getting hired somewhere else.”
But the truth is that most people can live with much less if forced to and there are always opportunities. Regardless of whether you change jobs or are facing down the choice to improve the one you’re at, the critical question remains: how much is a job that steals your peace worth to you?