How to stay positive at work when someone is negative

How to stay positive at work when someone is negative

In the vast ocean of our professional lives, we occasionally encounter challenging waves of negativity from coworkers or colleague. How to stay positive at work when someone is negative is a key factor of personal and work wellbeing. Whether it’s a constant complainer, a perpetual pessimist, or a colleague going through a tough time, the negativity can be contagious, threatening to disrupt our own sense of positivity and well-being. However, armed with science-based strategies, we can navigate these turbulent waters and maintain our positive outlook at work. In this personal article, I will share my journey of staying positive amidst negativity while incorporating evidence-based techniques to help you stay afloat.

Recognize the Power of Positivity

Positivity is not just a fluffy concept; it is rooted in science. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a positive mindset can boost productivity, creativity, and overall job satisfaction. Positive emotions have a profound impact on our brain’s chemistry, releasing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. Acknowledging the power of positivity provides the foundation for embracing it as a powerful tool to combat negativity at work.

Thanks to advancements in magnetic resonance research concerning brain neuron movement, studies have demonstrated that resonant leaders stimulate and engage a specific part of the brain, while dissonant leaders, who emit negative emotions, activate a different brain region. This phenomenon occurs due to the influence of mirror neurons, which mirror and reproduce the perceptions they receive. Interestingly, this brain-to-brain transmission occurs primarily below the level of consciousness.

Resonant leaders activate brain circuits that foster receptivity to novel ideas, enabling individuals to observe and analyze business and social environments effectively. Conversely, dissonant leaders trigger a different circuit, inhibiting the brain’s socializing aspect and instead activating regions focused on problem-solving and efficient task execution. When the task-execution circuit is activated, receptivity to new ideas and environmental observation is simultaneously suppressed.

As a result, when leaders cultivate a positive atmosphere for those around them, individuals become more open to building relationships, thinking creatively, and embracing diverse concepts, corroborating Frederickson’s broaden-and-build theory. On the other hand, dissonant leaders have the opposite effect; by overly concentrating on weaknesses and problems, they instill feelings of threat in others, prompting their brain’s survival mode, which essentially triggers a response to flee from the situation.

How to stay positive at work when someone is negative through mindfulness

How to stay positive at work when someone is negative can be challenging, but practicing mindfulness can be a powerful tool to help you navigate through such situations. Mindfulness enables you to be fully present and aware of your thoughts and emotions without judgment, allowing you to respond to negativity in a calm and centered manner. Here are some mindfulness-based strategies to stay positive at work:

Mindfulness starts with self-awareness. When you encounter negativity, observe how it affects your emotions and thoughts. By recognizing your reactions, you can create a space between the negativity and your response, giving you the opportunity to choose how to react.

In moments of negativity, take a few deep breaths to ground yourself. Deep breathing triggers the relaxation response, reducing stress and promoting a sense of calm. Use the breath as an anchor to bring your focus back to the present moment.

Instead of reacting negatively to the negative person, try to understand where they are coming from. Cultivate empathy and compassion by considering their perspective and what they might be going through. This can help you respond with greater understanding and patience.

While being empathetic, it’s essential to set boundaries to protect your well-being. Limit your exposure to constant negativity, and take breaks when needed to recharge and refocus your mind.

Cultivate Empathy and Compassion

Behind the fa├žade of negativity, there may be personal battles, hardships, or difficulties that we may not fully grasp. These colleagues might be dealing with issues in their personal lives, such as health problems, family concerns, financial stress, or other emotional burdens. Often, the negativity they project is a reflection of their internal struggles, and they may not have the emotional capacity to handle these challenges effectively.

Practicing empathy allows us to look beyond the surface and acknowledge the shared humanity we all possess. Just like us, these negative colleagues are human beings with their unique stories and vulnerabilities. By recognizing their struggles, we can develop a sense of connection and understanding, fostering an environment of compassion and support.

Offering support, a listening ear, or a helping hand can make a significant difference in their lives. Sometimes, all it takes is a kind gesture or a few words of encouragement to let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. Actively listening without judgment can provide them with a safe space to share their concerns, which may be precisely what they need to alleviate some of their emotional burdens.


Creating an environment of understanding and support can also impact the overall work culture positively. When colleagues feel that they are supported and valued, they are more likely to develop a sense of belonging and become more engaged in their work. As a result, the negativity’s impact can be mitigated, and the work atmosphere can become more harmonious and conducive to productivity and collaboration.

Moreover, by demonstrating empathy and compassion, we set an example for others to follow. Our actions inspire a ripple effect, encouraging our colleagues to treat one another with kindness and understanding. This collective effort towards compassion can create a positive and supportive workplace culture where colleagues feel comfortable seeking help and offering assistance to one another.

How to stay positive at work when someone is negative: networks and solutions

Surrounding ourselves with positive and supportive colleagues can be a lifeline in the face of negativity. Seek out like-minded individuals who share a positive outlook, and together, you can form a supportive network to uplift each other during challenging times. Positive social connections have been shown to enhance overall well-being and resilience, making them essential for navigating workplace negativity.

When confronted with negativity, it’s easy to get trapped in dwelling on the problems. However, shifting our focus to finding solutions can be empowering and uplifting. By adopting a problem-solving mindset, we can proactively address issues and work toward positive outcomes. Positivity is contagious, and as we model solution-oriented behavior, it can inspire others to follow suit.

Amidst the sea of negativity, it’s vital to celebrate small victories and accomplishments, both for ourselves and our colleagues. Recognizing achievements, no matter how minor, boosts morale and motivates us to keep moving forward. Creating a culture of appreciation and gratitude can counteract the effects of negativity and foster a positive work environment.

Navigating the waters of workplace negativity can be challenging, but armed with science-based strategies, we can stay positive and maintain our sense of well-being. Recognizing the power of positivity, practicing mindfulness, cultivating empathy, and setting boundaries are tools that can help us rise above negativity’s influence. Building a positive support network, focusing on solutions, and celebrating small wins contribute to creating a workplace that thrives despite occasional waves of negativity. By embracing these strategies, we become masters of our emotions and agents of positive change, transforming the workplace into a nurturing environment where positivity prevails even in the face of adversity.

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