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Toxic Coworkers: Dealing with Negativity at Work

written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 5/15/2011

Learn how to manage negative behaviors in the workplace by using a variety of strategies: Self-talk to decouple from the negative actions, stay focused on personal goals by knowing how to deal with negative behaviors confidently, and learn to use information to help defuse the negativity.

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    Manage Your Emotions

    Man leaning on desk 

    Managing your own emotions is one of the skills you use to overcome workplace negativity. Whenever you are faced with another person’s anger, frustration, pessimism, or skepticism, you should have a mechanism in place to immediately decouple your emotions from what you are observing. Decoupling your emotions in the workplace just means that regardless of behaviors that are being directed your way, you can control what you say and do and not get easily pulled into the other person’s feelings at the moment. This can be hard to do, especially when the other person being negative is someone you know very well or is a well-liked or well respected co-worker.

    The best way to decouple your emotions and your responses is through the use of self-talk. It is a very effective way to stay in control of your feelings, while at the same time overcome workplace negativity. For many people, however, decoupling their personal emotions from the behaviors and emotions that are being sent is very difficult.

    There are many ways to use self-talk. For example, for that angry person, self-talk just means telling yourself that you must stay in-control. You could say, “Bill is not worth getting upset over. I can handle his anger."

    Sometimes you may need to control a physical reaction such as your voice. You might even need to control your vocabulary. In this case, say to yourself, “Stay calm and speak slowly. Keep my voice down and choose the right words."

    It’s also a good way to help you stay focused on the negative situation and your strategy by saying something like, “Get Bill to explain what project he is angry about. Let him vent before responding."

    There are many different words, phrases or methods you can use in these types of situations. Most of them sound pretty simple on paper. But when you are faced with confrontation and anger, it is very easy to get drawn in. Self-talk can be a big help in controlling your reactions. It is generally a very effective technique in managing what you say and do during the work day when negativity pops up unexpectedly.

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    Deal with Negativity

    Woman thinking 

    We all know that negative emotions take on many different forms in the workplace. A key piece in dealing with these workplace emotions is determining whether they’re personally directed at you, toward customers, toward other employees, or toward the organization. Once you know how it’s being directed, you can then decide what actions to take.

    For example, if the adverse reactions are being personally directed at you, and they seem valid on the surface, then you will need to deal with it right away. Otherwise, the negative feelings may fester and could become much worse. One thing we know for sure, they will not go away on their own.

    If someone is just venting their frustrations about the organization, or they’re angry at how a customer talked to them a few minutes ago, then the immediacy of dealing with it is very different than when it’s directed at you personally.

    Sometimes, it is better to continue with what you are doing at work and not get drawn into the complaining, pessimism, anger, or skepticism, especially if where the emotion is being directed is something completely out of your control.

    Since you’re using self-talk to stay grounded and in control, you’ll be able to listen confidently and question some of the information you are hearing. Based on what you hear, you’ll need to quickly weigh the consequences of dealing with the other person immediately, delaying the interaction to a later time, or not dealing with it at all.

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    Keep Your Composure

    Some days it will feel like that everyone around you is being negative about something at work. And it’s during those times when it will be very easy to get drawn into the negativity and participate in some manner. That’s when you need to keep your composure. Stay focused on what you know is right, and by doing so, you will be able to overcome workplace negativity with visible poise and confidence.

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    Sources

    Dr. Woody on FoxBusiness.com. Dealing with Negativity and Harassment at Work. At http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/03/14/dealing-negativity-harassment-work/

    Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net






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