Attitude is contagious. One upbeat, positive person can change the vibe of the whole room. The same can be said for one negative person. In situations where multiple people are allowed to spread their negativity all over, the workplace can become downright toxic.
If you find yourself regularly coming into contact with people who have bad attitudes, take these steps to avoid sinking to their level.
Avoid them—if you can
While you have to cooperate and collaborate with people, you don’t have to eat lunch with the coworker who complains about every aspect of his job or join in when another coworker vents about customers. Distance yourself when you can.
Now, if you manage negative people, you can’t avoid them. Not only that, but you need to address the problem before it infects other members of your team. Remember, as a new leader, you could be taking over a team of people who have been through the ringer and have legitimate reasons to be negative. Be patient as you work to turn things around.
Separate the behavior from the person
People’s behavior may be challenging, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad people or bad employees. Behavior can change. When you remember that, you can focus on improving the behavior, rather than just writing off people as “difficult to work with.”
Acknowledge, but don’t agree
It’s your job to listen to employees’ rants, but you don’t have to give them the power to affect your mood. When it comes to your employees, you should listen to their perspectives and stories, but you don’t have to agree with them. Hear what they have to say and show some empathy, but don’t feel the need to join in and compare stories or to make their issues your own.
Instead, look for the positive angle or benefit in their “ain’t it awful” story, and share your perspective. Talk about the silver lining, share solutions or encourage them to come up with their own, and move the conversation in an overall positive manner. You’ll keep your own attitude from turning sour, while also encouraging them to quit whining.
Influence their attitude
Their attitude is contagious, but so is yours. What are you doing to help moderate or change their attitude? What coaching have you offered? Do they even know that their attitude is affecting others?
Additionally, can you honestly say that you put your most positive self forward when you interact with them? Are you supportive? Do you offer your help or guidance? Do you smile at them? Or do you immediately take on their persona and attitude whenever you’re together?
Ensure that you are modeling the best attitude, and then coach them to make changes.
Be intentionally positive
The more positive thoughts you put in your mind the less room there will be for negative ones. Try these ideas to make you more resilient against negative people:
- Read stuff that inspires you. It could be spiritual material, biographies of successful people (who likely have overcome great negativity in their lives), poetry or other books that make you feel good about life.
- Watch uplifting movies.
- Spend time with positive people.
- Practice looking for the good in situations. It is almost always there; maybe not in the moment, but in the big picture you can usually find a positive.
- Create a gratitude journal. Write down things each day of which you are thankful.
- Exercise and eat healthy foods. You’ll feel great and that will make you a happier person.
Finally, and perhaps most important: Let it go. If an employee is adversely affecting the team and the person won’t change after your coaching, you may need to let him or her go. However, if the person is simply negative by nature, but is a great employee, you will need to let it go. You can’t change people. Only they can change themselves. So in some cases you will have rise above the complaining and whining and simply ignore it.
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