When you are exposed daily to people who are down about their lives or careers, you may not realise that their gloomy perspective does impact their work and yours, too. Although they may not intend to, the overall lack of enthusiasm can be contagious — just like in the opposite scenario where an upbeat environment motivates you to improve and be more productive.
Although others’ negativity is well beyond your control, being aware of its impact can help counter its unintended consequence. Here are a few strategies to ensure that how your coworkers feel doesn’t impact your productivity or professional potential.
Read between the lines
Sarcastic remarks, gloomy attitude and indifference can all add up to a tough environment. If you learn to hear just what a person is saying, neglecting the tone, you’re more likely to avoid much of the damage.
For example, if your supervisor comes up with a list of work flow improvements, and the reaction of your coworkers along the lines of: “So what? That won’t change a thing,” don’t take this judgement for granted. Look at the situation yourself and evaluate if it does help the workflow or not. If you see that it does, don’t second guess your opinion. Meanwhile, understand that the person who made the comment may just be resistant to change, doesn’t like the supervisor or simply skeptical of all and every change.
While being critical of your own work and your company’s practices can be good, if kept within healthy limits, too much self-criticism is destructive. Many people fall into this trap of being unfairly idealistic, and getting too stressed about any performance shortcomings, compromises and hard decisions.
Being realistic about your employer’s size in the market, resources and the capabilities of yourself and your coworkers can help you see why certain decisions are made, and why quality limits are difficult to be pushed higher. That is not to say that you should settle for less, but instead find ways to improve without being negative about your surrounding and others, which is counterproductive.
Avoid personal drama
As much as you may want to keep a personal relationship with some of your coworkers, being constantly immersed in their personal struggles may begin to take a toll on you. Show empathy and understanding, and offer to listen when needed, but don’t turn the workplace into a place where personal lives set the tone. In fact, by doing so you may help your struggling co-worker have a space where they can disconnect and forget about any personal issues, if possible.
Needless to say, don’t get dragged into others’ lives. If you offer to help with one thing or another, be sure that your help is defined and clear. Having this personal dimension can complicate work relationship, so keep it totally to the minimum, especially if the person is your supervisor or subordinate.
Finally, be an example of how to separate work from life. For example, discuss non-work issues only over lunch or after hours. If you’re just checking in, keep the conversation to the minimum or change topics quickly to return back to business. This will give the person a cue that you’d rather keep work time for work.
See the symptoms
If you catch yourself feeling down, less enthusiastic about work or generally unmotivated, know that you may have fallen into the negativity trap. Take a serious look at your feelings and actions and see if there are legitimate reasons.
If your reasons generally revolve about what you’ve heard from others and how others think about their jobs, take a second look into your situation. Not only may you be in a much better position than they are, you even may see that their own opinions are influenced with their personal issues and perspective.
By Rania Oteify
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.
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