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Avoiding Negativity in the WorkplaceWorkplace negativity can have more than a few bad consequences. From reduced productivity to problems with retention, any environment where pessimism, complaining, derision or worse are regularly given reign can wreak a weedy and hard-to-counter havoc. Whether you’re the boss or just another employee trying to keep your head above the muck, curbing negativity will greatly increase the quality of your work life.

Negativity — What it Looks Like

Negativity is the habitual practice of attitudes, behaviors and speech that weaken morale, and according to Gary Topchik at ASAE, it’s primarily communicated in three ways:

  • Verbal negativity. Words are powerful, and using them in a way that disparages others or their ideas contributes to negativity. Any use of language that is dismissive, defensive and belittling will also increase the amount of negative air in the office.
  • Vocal negativity. Not to be confused with verbal negativity, vocal negativity is found in how someone delivers his words. Whining, yelling, sarcasm and mumbling are all examples of vocal negativity.
  • Visual negativity. Posture, gestures and facial expressions are as effective in communicating as words are. Frowning, refusing to look others in the eye, offensive gestures, eye rolling — these practices and those like them will create a negative atmosphere.

If you find yourself engaging in any of the above negative practices, notice it, and commit to changing your behavior. If you aren’t part of the negativity problem where you work, good job! Don’t succumb to it, and follow these tips for countering, curbing and curing the negativity that’s threatening your work environment.

Get Involved Early

Especially if you’re a boss or manager, it’s important to keep your ear to the ground so you can catch wind of any grumbling before it becomes a deafening roar. Stamping out trouble before it gets too large is easily the best cure for negativity. To that end, regularly engage in conversation with your employees and co-workers to get a good feel for the pulse of the organization. Then, when policies, workload, employee conflicts and other potential problems are brought to your attention, work proactively and fairly to resolve them. While it’s true that some employees do have a more negative streak than others, it’s often the case that changing aspects of the job are driving employees’ downward shifting attitudes, and if these are addressed, the negative feelings and behaviors will dissipate.

Set an Example

People have reasons to feel negative feelings. You, your co-workers and your employees all have legitimate complaints, bad days, seemingly insurmountable problems and other troubles that can affect your work and attitude. Regardless of what is going on in the workplace and in your personal life, set an example by how you handle yourself around the workplace. Without denying that trouble exists, do the following:

  • Be kind and cordial.
  • Don’t give gossips and rumormongers any of your time.
  • Stay positive, and when you can’t be positive, stay silent.
  • Treat everyone else like you would like to be treated.
  • Address concerns and complaints head-on, without being confrontational or defensive.

Transform Negative Words Into Positive Words

Reduce Negativity in the WorkplaceLanguage is basic to the person we each become, affecting how we think, feel and view the world.
In fact, humans are so powerfully and integrally affected by the language we hear around us that the melodic tones in newborns’ cries are different depending on the mothers’ accents. Even while in the womb, we are picking up on vocal and verbal cues. It follows, then, that negative (or positive) words and tones continue to carry weight our whole lives. If you have a negativity problem on your hands, one of the fastest routes to curbing it is to trade negative words for positive ones. Instead of saying, “I hope the project doesn’t fail,” say instead, “I hope the project succeeds.” Change “This won’t work” to “This is going to be difficult.” In every instance, transform your language into one of potential, faith in your employees and co-workers and opportunity for growth. Negativity can’t flourish in that kind of environment.

Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

It’s impossible to be in any kind of relationship without disagreeing from time to time, and the workplace is no exception. That being said, there is never any reason for disagreements to turn hostile. Remaining calm and open to the other person’s concerns and ideas will go a long way in ensuring that differing opinions don’t lead to a fight. Even if the person with whom you’re disagreeing is wandering into a negative space, there’s no reason to follow. Take a few deep breaths, repeat his ideas and concerns back to him and continue on in a measured tone of voice until you understand one another. If you need to take a break from the discussion because one of you is getting too heated, suggest another time to continue the conversation. Be sure to affirm your belief in being able to reach a compromise, and follow through on continuing the discussion. Disagreeing doesn’t have to be disagreeable, but you will have to exercise self-control.

Curbing negativity in the workplace doesn’t always have an easy solution, but it’s well worth the effort. By being pro-active, positive and committed to keeping yourself above the fray, negativity can be improved, and over time, banished.

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