How to beat workplace negativity

Studies show that having an optimistic outlook has a positive impact on health, happiness, and performance. Approaching life from an optimistic point of view can allow us to see the positive aspects of any situation, which can have a dramatic effect on our ability to thrive in a variety of contexts.

At work, a dedication to nurturing positivity can play a large role in determining team morale, productivity, and team-building. Happier individuals tend to produce positive energy throughout the workplace, contributing to a more stimulating environment for the entire office.

However, not everyone has a “cheerleader” personality and it can be very easy to suddenly find yourself feeling overwhelmed in the workplace. This can often lead to negative and critical feelings. Consequently, you’re limiting your success as well as potentially creating an equally adverse environment for your peers… after all, negativity is as contagious as positivity!

A few simple changes can help pave a path to achieve your professional goals and a higher quality of work life. Applying an optimistic attitude professionally will also strengthen your overall ability to cope, react, and adapt in stressful situations. Here are a few different ways that you can exercise optimism in your professional life:

1. Set daily goals

Set goals that benefit your own professional life as well as the professional climate of your teammates. Choose something that can be attainable and practical, then create the awareness of that goal, keeping in mind that there should be definitive solutions in mind.

When you begin goal-setting amongst your teammates, it’s like a breath of fresh air, it provides clarity, and naturally generates energy and optimism.

You can start with items that are issues or problems internally or for a client; brainstorm with your peers on what are potentially viable solutions that impact your entire team. Ask yourself, “Why is this a problem?”, “How did it become a problem?”, “What can we do to prevent it happening again?”, while keeping vigilant against the potential for such an exercise to turn into a complaint session. Instead, provide guidance that will allow everyone to briefly contribute to the solution in order to create a plan for success. This keeps the session focused on solutions, which are empowering for the whole group.

Your goals don’t have to be linked to solving problems—they can be proactive, growth-based goals can provide a sense of progress and achievement even in times when stressors and tedium begin to stack up.

2. Cultivate healthy work relationships

Social connections at work can produce highly desirable change. Some studies even show that healthy social connections at work can correlate to reduced illnesses, experiences of depression, and an increase in job performance.

Seems obvious, right? But how can you create those friendships more organically?

Start with an icebreaker! On Monday morning, ask someone how their weekend was, talk about something you find interesting and see if it catches their interest. Ask a nearby peer if they want to grab a coffee or lunch. Create an intentional pursuit of laughter, tell a joke you heard or ask if they’ve seen your new favorite Netflix show or a comedy skit that always makes you laugh (I have personally done these things and they work 10/10 times!).

Nothing makes everything seem more manageable and boosts the ability to communicate effectively than finding common ground to connect on. I’m certain that any of these things will open doors, maybe even unexpected ones. Humans are evolutionarily wired for relationships, so if we can establish healthy friendships with our coworkers, the work we share will become more enjoyable.

3. Be intentional with feedback

Too often we can assume that people understand the importance of their work, or that providing feedback once is good enough because people will remember it. Better communication practices and team collaboration is possible when everyone knows their individual contributions align with the project (and company) goals.

Here at WillowTree, we always try to follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated; or better yet, treat others the way they want to be treated. Speaking with your direct peers often, setting clear goals, and reinforcing why their work matters can provide a sense of individual importance and value. When we feel valued, we’re confident and motivated to take ownership of our work, providing a promising outlook for progress and success. Showing appreciation and providing feedback is a great place to start.

Feedback can be encouraging, even when it’s not positive. Critical feedback, when delivered with empathy, can let a person know that their contributions are vital to the overall work of the team. If we’re treating each other by the Golden Rule in our day-to-day interactions, and are forming healthy relationships, then this kind of feedback should be easy to give and receive, because the team will be aligned towards creating the best work possible.

4. Have a regular cadence of balanced, positively driven practices

Without a routine in place, it can be easy for a team to fall out of practice in preserving intangibles like optimism. Being intentional about making time to practice optimism can have a big impact on yourself and peers. Here’s a list of possible examples:

  • Scheduling a weekly team lunch offsite
  • Blocking off time to take a short walk by yourself or with a colleague
  • Taking time to teach someone something new
  • Creating a tradition of telling a joke at the end of every meeting
  • Say “Thank you” more often - it goes a long way!
  • Team norming meetings

Even doing one positive thing can boost optimism among your teams’ mood and create an environment that feels more positive, outgoing, and collaborative. Being intentional with your regular exercises of positivity is taking control of your own happiness and will surely be infectious among your peers and even your clients!

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