This article is the fifth in a 10-part series on the topic of overcoming career-limiting habits.
My former co-worker (let’s call her “Ruth”) always saw the negative in everything. When an idea was presented, she was the first one to say, “That won’t work.” Fair enough. But she never offered alternatives. She never looked for solutions. She never, ever gave anything or anyone the benefit of the doubt. Ruth was an absolute nightmare to work with.
I understand that some people are just naturally more positive than others. And I truly believe that every operation works best when there are a wide variety of personalities in the mix. But negativity for its own sake rarely serves a purpose. And people who can’t demonstrate a positive “can do” attitude in the workplace are truly damaging their career future.
In a recent survey, negative attitude was listed as the fifth most common career limiting habit. Not surprising. Who wants to work with a sour puss? What company wants to reward (i.e., promote) that kind of behavior? Negative people, at best, stay put. At worst, they’re shown the door.
Why Attitude Matters
You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? I’m just being honest. I have to voice my opinions and be myself. I don’t do the fake stuff.”
That’s fine. No one’s asking you to fake it…much. The workplace is a living, breathing organism and everyone impacts it. Your negative attitude can bring down the entire thing. It’s as contagious as an airborne virus.
Now, let me also be clear: Voicing a dissenting opinion, speaking assertively and saying “no” are not inherently negative. You can—and should—embrace your individuality and your professional power. But your delivery has a huge impact. Done in the wrong way, these things can certainly appear negative.
There are, however, a few simple strategies to keep in mind that will help you demonstrate a positive attitude, while still being yourself in the workplace:
It’s amazing how powerful a smile can be. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to smile regularly throughout the day. Others will respond to you more favorably and you’ll naturally feel more positive.
Negative people see obstacles. Positive people look for solutions. Instead of pointing out a challenge and waving the white flag of surrender, approach it like a puzzle. How can we turn the situation around? How can we fix the problem? How can we make this work? It’s fine to be skeptical, but bring your own ideas to the table as well.
Negativity comes from a place of emotion: Frustration, anger, disappointment, etc. Do your best to set these feelings aside. The workplace is a professional environment—it’s your responsibility to act professionally. That means using tact and diplomacy, stating facts before feelings, and finding ways to get the job done—even when it’s uncomfortable.
Respect the Team
Negativity sucks the energy from those around you. Give your team members the respect they deserve. Even if you aren’t feeling particularly positive, focus on the bigger picture. You’re a part of the team and your attitude matters. A little effort goes a long way.
Negativity is like a boomerang: It always comes back to you. Likewise, the more you project a positive attitude, the more positivity will come your way. You don’t have to pretend to be someone else. Just recognize the powerful force that is your attitude, and use it to your advantage.