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Dealing With Destructive Energy in the Workplace

written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 6/25/2011

When faced with any kind of negativity on the job, what do you do? Negative energy can engulf even the best intentioned employees. Learn to control your reactions and you will learn to control your career.

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    It's More Common Than You Think

    Woman thumbs down 

    Negative energy and emotions seem to be everywhere you look but most of us wonder how to ignore negative energy. Whether you scan the Internet, watch a few news stories on TV, or listen to some friends who are frustrated about some personal events, negativity is pretty common. When it filters through the workplace, it can add a level of anxiety and stress that isn’t necessary or welcome by other employees. Distractions become more commonplace, affecting workplace productivity and individual performance. So, what should you do?

    Well, the first thing to remember when dealing with any negativity is to learn to take control of your own emotions. Otherwise, it is very easy to get pulled into what other people are doing and saying and start participating in some fashion, sometimes unknowingly. Once you get pulled-in, it can be hard to change gears to get out of the situation. And when you do get out, at least for the moment, the energy seems to linger longer than you’d like. We know energy is a great multiplier, whether it’s positive energy or negative energy. And in both cases, it’s very easy to get caught up in the moment.

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    Typical Examples

    One of the easiest examples to understand the contrast of energies and how easy it is to get pulled in, and how hard it is to ignore, are sporting events. This is especially true when there are heated rivalries between teams and between cites. In the home city location, fans are exuberant, excitable, and positive.

    Visiting fans from the opposing team feel quite the opposite about the home team. They’ll boo, yell at players and the referees, and so on. When things are going well for the visiting team, the visiting team fans will cheer their team and become engulfed in positive energy. The home team fans in this case will do the opposite and exhibit their negative energy as rapidly as they exhibited their positive energy.

    These two factions will clash during the event, sometimes creating angry reactions from both sides at each other. Hopefully, cooler heads prevail and the angry reactions diminish into good-natured ribbing.

    We know it is easy to react to anger or hostility with the matching emotion, especially if you feel the hostility or anger is being directed at you personally. So, what's the secret on avoiding negative energy? Let’s look at politicians.

    Watch what happens when there are opposing viewpoints rendering animosity, and sometimes even hatred toward the politician. With all that negative energy, it would be very easy to lash out. Unfortunately, some politicians do respond that way, and their political careers are usually pretty short. However, those that excel in this atmosphere develop a thick skin and appear to be in control of their reactions. They’ve learned not to personalize the hostility and deflect the negative energy by redirecting it into a positive response, that also captures the essence of the intensity. They’ll respond with vigor, yet keep a professional persona.

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    Workplace Emotions

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    In the workplace, negative emotions have a tendency to sap the positive mindset of those employees exposed to it. And it isn’t just anger. There are other negative emotions besides anger that can cause problems. Some of the most common variations are skepticism, suspicion, fear, anxiety, guilt, apathy, and indifference.

    In each of these cases, how you respond can be very different. An employee expressing fear about something is very different than one who is skeptical. And the same is true for each negative emotion. However, regardless of the emotion, you want to learn to visibly send the message you are in control of your emotions. When you are in control, you can more easily ignore what is happening around you. If the emotion is legitimate, and something you caused, then ignoring the response may not be the best solution, at least at that moment. If you don’t deal with something you caused, more than likely, it will just lead to more anger.

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    Stay in Control

    The way to send the right message to others that you know how to ignore negative energy in the workplace, is to first understand how you typically react both mentally and physically. Think about the clues you feel and the reactions you seem to have. Does your voice get raised? Do you begin to feel flush or feel your heart beating faster? Do you squint your eyes, or do you open them even wider? What are you thinking to yourself? Do you have feelings of indignation, vengeance, wanting to get even, or wanting to humiliate someone? All of these clues need to be controlled if you are going to attempt to ignore the negative energy being displayed around you.

    Some of the best ways to control yourself is to learn to use self-talk. Self-talk and visualizing results are very powerful tools to stay in control. Know your clues, and when you begin to feel your reactions, start to tell yourself in a positive way what you should say and do to stay in control. Overtime, and with some practice, your responses will become more natural and your internal clues will be less noticeable. Your mental and physical cues will become less apparent and your ability to sway the negative energy will become stronger.

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    Sources

    Naylor, Anne, Huffington Post (August 21, 2010), "Dealing with Negative Energy in the Workplace retrieved at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-naylor/dealing-with-negative-ene_b_684394.html

    Image Credits:

    Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net