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Glass Half Full
16 Ways Emotionally Intelligent People Stay Positive at Work
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Marissa Taffer
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Whether its because you hate your job, you have a toxic boss or you’re going through something personal like a serious illness or a divorce, there may come a time in your career when it is really hard for you to stay positive at work. Whatever the reason you’re feeling a little down, try these 16 tips to help you. 

1. Set boundaries.

If you’re struggling to find the positive at work, now is not the time to spread yourself thin and take on extra work or spend all afternoon listening to a colleague complain about her boss. Whether it's keeping the conversation short, not staying late, only checking email before 7 pm or not volunteering to plan the department offsite, set and keep boundaries to help you keep your sanity and any shred of positivity you can muster — even if it's just so you can have enough time to keep your job search moving. 

2. Try to find allies.

When you’re having trouble staying positive, look for allies to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, whether that's a coworker to have coffee with you after a particularly tense meeting or someone to help you figure out how to respond to a nasty email. Find allies in the organization and outside to help you take emotion out of an emotionally-charged situation and keep moving forward.  While you might be able to do it all on your own, it’s easier with a good support system. 

3. Reward yourself for accomplishments.

Get through a brutal one-on-one with your boss? Manage to ignore a coworker's drama? Reward yourself for a job well done. This could be with your favorite snack, a yoga class or long run after work or even just some time outside. For the really big stuff, think about treating yourself to a manicure, facial or massage if that's something you enjoy. 

4. Don’t engage in gossip.

Gossip is a behavior that can become a drain on positivity. Not only does no good come from it, but you run the risk of alienating coworkers when you’re already in a tough situation. If other team members are gossiping, politely excuse yourself. While they chat, you’ll get all of your work done and be able to leave the office earlier. 

5. Make fun plans for after work or the weekend.

If you have something to look forward to, it will be easier to stay positive. Think about some extra fun weekend plans or a happy hour with your best girlfriends after work. If you have a hobby you like, try to put some extra time into it. If you don’t, consider a fun class like learning something creative or trying a fun, new workout. Studies have also shown that booking a vacation to have something to look forward to is as beneficial as actually going on the trip, so don’t hesitate to book that trip!

6. Don’t take on extra work.

Whether you’re thinking about leaving your job or just going through a rough time personally, this is not the time to take on extra work or responsibilities. If you are struggling to stay positive at work, focus on taking care of yourself and getting back to a place where you feel that you can be positive should be your priority. Although work-life balance is a concept that most people try to find, sometimes you have to focus more on work and others more on life. This is a time to focus on life. 

7. Ignore others who are complaining.

Complaining can be contagious. If others in your office are frequently complaining, the easy thing to do would be to chime in. Try to resist this temptation as it will keep you feeling pretty negative. If you know certain people in your office are chronic complainers, try to avoid them or quickly change the subject when complaints start.  

8. Don’t beat yourself up over a mistake.

When you’re already feeling negative, it can be easy to beat yourself up over any and every little mistake. Remember to take it in stride —  everyone makes mistakes even when they have their dream job! Try to think about how you’ll feel about your error in a week, a month, a year or five years. Chances are, it won’t matter much, so try to remember that.  

9. Try to smile when you can. 

No, this isn’t like having a man tell you to smile more because you look pretty when you do. In all seriousness, there may be some truth to faking it till you make it. See if you feel more positive after smiling for a while; it really might help keep your spirits up. If it doesn’t, try one of these other tips until the real smile comes back!

10. Take a walk when you need to.

If you’re feeling really negative or even angry, try taking a walk. Even if the weather is nasty, you could walk across the office building or business campus. If your office is connected to some retail stores, try window shopping. It might help you relax and feel more positive.  

11. Make your workspace as comfortable as possible. 

It’s hard to be positive when your workspace is uncomfortable. If your chair is creaking, you don’t have enough light  or your keyboard sticks weirdly, it might be hard to do your best at work. Consider asking for some upgrades to your workspace or bringing in some photos or decorations that make you feel good. Be sure your decor doesn’t violate any company policies — you don’t want to add to your stress by having a fight with HR over your desk decorations. 

12. Try to learn something new. 

If you’re feeling negative about your job or people you work with, try learning a new skill, whether its something work-related like learning to code or taking a class in email marketing or something more creative like an art class. Learning a new skill could boost your confidence and creativity. 

13. Practice active listening. 

If you’re feeling negative about your boss, colleagues or a project you’ve been assigned, try to practice active listening. Really listen to what your boss is saying. Is there any truth to it? What can you learn from what you hear? It may be just confirming what you already know, but keep an open mind and see if you can get any insight. If it’s a project that seems tedious or pointless that’s making you feel negative about your work, listen to the reasons the project was kicked off. Are the goals important to the business? Can you find anything positive about the impact the project will have? 

14. Try to find the positive in every situation. 

When you’re feeling negative, try to flip the script. Maybe your stressful job provides the compensation you need to take a long vacation in the future. Do you have the opportunity to learn and grow because of the situation you’re in? You may struggle to see it in the moment, but try thinking about the future. What good can come from the situation you’re in? If you can’t see it for yourself, ask friends, colleagues or even a therapist to help you find it — or figure out how to move on from it.

15. Exercise or move your body regularly.

Exercise can give you an endorphin boost or just plain pull you out of a funk. Pick any type of workout you like — yoga, barre, powerlifting or even a swim if you have access to a pool. If you’re out of shape or don’t really like to work out, try a walk. You can make it as long or as short as feels good for you. Bonus points if you can get out in the sun for a few minutes — the vitamin D can be helpful as well. 

16. Try a change of scenery.

If your office is an open floor plan, try working out of another space or even a coffee shop or restaurant for a few hours. Sitting on a comfortable couch or enjoying a favorite beverage or snack can help pull you out of a negative place. You may find you’re more creative and inspired when you change the scenery a bit. 

Benefits of a positive outlook at work.

There are many benefits to having a positive outlook at work. Having a positive outlook at work isn’t just good for your career — it is also good for your health, according to studies discussed in The New York Times and Johns Hopkins. People who have a positive outlook at work are: 

  • More likely to be promoted

  • More likely to have a strong network both at work and in their broader industry

  • Less likely to get sick

  • Less likely to have insomnia 

  • Less likely to be overweight 

FAQs

How do you stay positive at work when you hate your job?

If you hate your job, you can still be positive at work! Remember to not take things personally and look for the good in every situation. Hate your job because you’re not being challenged at work? Get your work done quickly so you can look for other ways to challenge yourself. Have a boss who is a micromanager? What can you learn from her about management? Can you figure out why she’s micromanaging and help her to let go of some control? Find these challenges to explore and then celebrate when you’re successful. 

How do you stay positive in a toxic work environment?

This is a hard one, but it’s not impossible. If your work environment is toxic, do what you can to find people who are positive outside of the office. Minimize your time with people who are especially toxic. A colleague who constantly comes to you with complaints? Shut her down. As soon as the complaints start, say something like “I understand that working with so-and-so can be frustrating, but let’s try to get our work done so we can leave and not have to spend as much time on it.” By ending the conversation, you won’t get pulled into the toxicity. If you’re dealing with jealous coworkers or someone who is actively trying to sabotage you, try not to engage. Keep your cool, do your best work and keep everything moving. 

How do you tell someone to be more positive at work?

If someone else in your office is having a hard time being positive and is actively bringing you down, try curiosity and compassion first. Start by asking them what’s going on. It may be better to do this out of the office over a cup of coffee or tea. You could say something like “I’ve noticed you seem a little negative lately. Is there something we should know? Is there anything we can do to help you?” This lets the person know that you’ve noticed and that you care. Once you understand the problem, ask them if they want help. Don’t just jump into solution mode. Hopefully, your colleague understands that you want to help them. If you can’t help, you could also try to connect them to someone who can. This could be an HR professional, counselor, employee assistance hotline or an outside resource. Remember that everyone responds to stress and offers of help differently, so let your colleague guide you on the best way to support them. 

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