5 Ways to Navigate Your Way Around Negativity at the Office
When it comes to happiness in the workplace, all you really need is love. Not that the Beatles are the greatest example of getting along with coworkers, but a 2015 study from management experts at Wharton and George Mason University finds that a loving workplace is the key to employee engagement and happiness. In a survey of 3,201 employees in seven different industries—from financial services to real estate—they expressed the importance of an affectionate, compassionate, caring work culture in making people more satisfied with their jobs and committed to their organization.
But what do you do if you feel anything but love for your coworkers? How do you navigate those difficult, irritable, nonsocial and generally unpleasant coworkers that tend to make your work life anything but lovable? Here we offer some suggestions on keeping the peace—as well as your sanity—when dealing with malcontents:
If you have to deal with an unpleasant coworker, often the best thing you can do is take that person aside and make them aware of their troublesome behavior. Sometimes difficult people don’t even know they are being difficult, and having a one-on-one talk can do wonders for their attitude. You may even end up with a new ally because of your honest feedback. But don’t be surprised if the difficult person deflects their behavior or tries to turn the tables on the situation. Regardless of the outcome, clear communication will help you in the long run.
Say No to Negativity
We all have experienced the Negative Nancy or Ned, the bad apples in the bunch that only look for the worst in any situation. The biggest thing to remember when dealing with negative coworkers is to not get embroiled in their drama by maintaining a professional distance. Remember, negative people are not team players, and you don’t want to give the appearance of being aligned with them. If the negative person is someone you have to deal with on a regular basis, just remember to be polite, offer an alternative viewpoint (if you feel the need), but don’t ever expect to change his or her behavior. More often than not, their level of negativity is a deeply ingrained personality trait that cannot be changed.
Remember when you thought being an adult meant everyone of a certain age would act like an adult? Unfortunately, the personality types we first met on the school playground keep showing up, including the most reviled type of all—the bully. Yes, bullies exist in any environment and the adult workplace is no different. The difference with adult bullies is that you don’t have to endure mocking, intimidating or confrontational behavior from anyone in the modern workplace. Not only are there strict employee guidelines to prevent this type of harassment, but you’re also not the scared kid on the playground any longer.
If someone is bullying you, be assertive from the very beginning, look him or her in the eye and state that you will not tolerate that type of behavior. If necessary, talk to your immediate supervisor or contact your human resources department and file a complaint. Work is hard enough as it is and bullying should never be tolerated on any level.
You know the person we’re talking about—the one who is closed off to alternative ways of conducting business because they are the self-appointed expert on just about everything. This level of intellectual superiority is just another form of negativity that you want to avoid, particularly if you are new to the team and trying to introduce innovative ways of thinking. Often, Mr. or Ms. Know-It-All actually may have some good ideas, but they are too wrapped up in ego or impatience to effectively execute their vision. The best way to handle a know-it-all is to listen to their opinion in a respectful manner and acknowledge their unique perspective. Then you can present your carefully crafted and well-researched alternative way of thinking in a non-threatening and non-confrontational manner.
It’s very important to distinguish an angry or disgruntled coworker from one that may be facing serious mental illness. With mental illness so prevalent in today’s society, the high pressures of today’s business world can make an office setting ripe for unsettling and dangerous confrontations. If you are faced with a coworker whose behavior seems inappropriate to the situation at hand, do your best to stay calm and measured in your response. Then notify a superior or a personnel representative. If the behavior is particularly egregious or threatening, don’t hesitate to call law enforcement.