It can be hard to have a good attitude at work when your boss is abusive, either to you or to others. You may be afraid to approach your boss, but negative bosses can actually make you less efficient and make you anxious. Be mindful of power dynamics when approaching your boss. Be polite, tactful, and considerate.
*Approach the issue as a collaboration. Remember, your boss may not even realize that she has a problem, and she may not be intending to be hurtful. For example, you could say something like, “I notice I’m having some issues at work. Can we discuss about ways to address them?”
*Look for common ground. For example, you could say something like, “I know we both really value making sure that our projects are high quality” to let your boss know that you and she have the same ultimate goal.
*Be direct but respectful. Use “I”-statements. You could say something like, “I’ve found I work best with specific, concrete feedback rather than general commentary. Do you think you could offer me more specific feedback on my reports? I think that would really help me make them the best they can be.”
*Be honest. If your boss has said things that are belittling, harassing, or mean-spirited, be clear about that, but avoid sounding judgmental. For example, you could try something like, “I really felt hurt when you yelled at me in front of my office-mates last week. It would help me if you talked with me privately about areas where I can improve.” By modeling clear, honest, but polite discussion of your feelings, you may even help your boss deal with you better.
*Avoid passive-aggressive behaviors. While studies suggest they may be better than nothing, they don’t communicate your actual needs and wishes to your boss.
Everyone can have a bad day now and then, but some people are just workplace bullies. If your boss is abusive, or even simply not very constructive in how she gives criticism, it can make it very hard to keep a good attitude at work.
*Abusive, unacceptable behaviors include: intimidation, harassment, deceit, humiliation, personal criticism or name-calling, and aggression. If the behavior is consistently and significantly abusive or hostile, you may have a legal case.
*For example, if your boss criticizes your work by saying, “This looks terrible! My grandmother could write a better report!” this is an abusive behavior. However, it probably isn’t enough to sue her over.
*Sometimes, bosses just don’t have very good communication skills. For example, if your boss criticizes your work by saying, “This is terrible. Fix it,” it isn’t necessarily abusive, but it definitely isn’t helpful. It’s also likely to make you feel bad about yourself. If you think your boss’s communication style could use some work, it’s a good idea to approach her about it.
You don’t know what is going on with your coworker, so listen to him as he explains. Maybe his mother is ill and that’s making him more irritable. Maybe he’s worried about under performing or doesn’t feel valued as a team member. Understanding where the negativity is coming from can help you work together to reduce it. In many cases, your colleague may just be glad to have someone to listen.
*Use empathetic statements, such as “That sounds like it’s really hard for you” or “I’m sorry you’re going through that.”
*Even if the conversation doesn’t go well, you have tried to address the problem. If you need to take the matter to HR or to your boss, you will be able to say you tried to work with the other person and didn’t get anywhere.
Greet people happily and even if you are having a bad day, try not to spread gloom at work. Understand the concept of WOW–watch our words. What you say reflects what you feel and believe. Let your voice be a positive one of encouragement in the workplace. Offer smiles, compliments, and support to others.
*If you are going through a rough time or have experienced a tragic event, do speak with your supervisor or a trusted coworker to let her know that you might need support.
3. APPROACH A PROBLEM COLLEAGUE:
If a colleague’s negativity is bringing you down, try approaching him politely. It’s entirely possible he’s making others uncomfortable too, but nobody feels comfortable explaining the problem.
*Keep your statements “I”-focused, such as “I would like to talk to you about something. I notice that lately you’ve been talking a lot about what bothers you about your clients. I know we all have irritations with our clients, but the consistent focus on negativity is really making it hard for me to stay positive and energized at work. Would you like to talk about what’s going on?” Using “I”-statements avoid issuing blame or sounding judgmental and can keep your coworker from going on the defensive.
It can be tempting to use negativity when talking about issues, especially if they are serious problems. However, negativity breeds more negativity. Try these tactics instead:
Instead of saying something like “Bad idea—it’ll never work,” say something like, “I have concerns about that. Would you like to hear them?”
Instead of passive aggression, which says things you don’t mean or communicates sarcastically, be direct. For example, avoid saying things like, “No, why would I have a problem?” if you are upset. Instead, try something like, “Yes, I am not happy with how you’ve been talking to me in front of my coworkers. Can we talk?”
Workplace gossip can be a huge problem that contributes to negative attitudes. Don’t participate in it.
Do you always feel negative after reading certain newspapers? Perhaps watching the morning news puts you in a downward spiral. When you have identified what things cause you to have a bad attitude, try to reduce your exposure to these items.
*If you cannot reduce your exposure to negative items, change your reaction to them. When you see negative news like a story about a natural disaster, think instead about how you could help. Could you donate money, clothes, food, or your time? Consider positive actions that you can take in response to negative items.
3. REDUCE INTERACTIONS WITH NEGATIVE PEOPLE:
If you have one particular colleague who always brings you down, try to reduce your interactions with him. If it is impossible to avoid him, ask him positive questions. Ask him what is going well with his work that day. Ask him what his favorite movies are. Try to steer your conversations towards positive topics.
Although your circumstances can certainly influence how you feel, you develop your attitude from how you approach your circumstances. You alone determine how you respond to your personal situation. Recognizing that change begins with you is the first step towards improving your attitude.
*For example, even if you have a horrible boss or a negative coworker, you can still choose to respond in negative or in positive ways. Will you contribute to the problem, or will you work to make it better?
*Negativity can spread from person to person. Do not let yourself be a transmitter.
Holding grudges and dwelling on your imperfections will only emphasize a negative attitude. Being able to forgive and let go will allow you to focus on the positive in yourself and others.
The act of forgiveness will remove negative attitudes and create space for positive attitudes. But it will also decrease stress and increase peace and calm in your life.
LIMIT OR REMOVE NEGATIVE PEOPLE FROM YOUR LIFE:
The people with whom we surround ourselves have a significant impact on our attitudes. Limiting or removing negative people from your life will start helping you change your attitude.
If you can’t remove a person from your life entirely, or you don’t want to hurt him, you can limit your exposure to him. You can also counteract his negative attitudes and viewpoints by pointing out the positive in what he says or does. This way, you don’t get drawn down his negative path.
Having supportive people around you who can put things in perspective is important to cultivating a positive attitude. Surrounding yourself with positive people will counteract negativity and help you change your attitude.
Simple acts of kindness and helping others can do wonders for your attitude. Not only can put things in perspective about your life, but it can distract you from problems and generally make you feel more positive.
Consider volunteering at a hospital or old age homes. Realizing that you are healthy and have the means to support yourself will put your life in perspective. Doing this can also help you to actively choose to change negativity in your life.
Helping friends and family members can also help you change a bad attitude because you’re making someone else feel good, which in turn will make you feel good.
Giving and receiving love and support will make your perspective on life increasingly positive.
LIST NEGATIVE THINGS IN YOUR LIFE AND BEGIN TO CHANGE THEM:
Acknowledging what is negative in your life will allow you to see what you can control and change. Burn the list to symbolize letting go of negativity.
On a piece of paper, list anything in your life that you consider negative. Read the list and check off what you can change. For example, you can change negative relationships with others by removing them from your life or you can change bad finances by taking steps to save money.
Once you’ve thought about how to change the negative influences in your life, burn the paper to symbolize letting go and write a new list with positive things in your life.