Is your workplace rife with negative vibes? Do you drag your feet to the office hoping for a sudden squall that'll have you headed back home instead of the office where you are destined to encounter hostile colleagues? If your answer is yes, then this article is for you.

Working in an office weighed down by negativity is more common than you think. Which of us doesn't have tales of a co-worker who refused to help even though you were just hours away from a deadline or a teammate who started an ugly rumour about you? Though negativity is usually unavoidable at most workplaces, there are some things you can do to control or influence that negativity.

Look inward

Are you part of the problem? The first thing to do when faced with a problem is to examine your role in it. Once you identify your role, it may be as simple as just tweaking your attitude or taking a more positive view. For instance, you have a colleague that pushes your buttons. Constantly griping about being over-worked or underpaid, he just gets your goat. As a result you spend the rest of the day complaining to friends and co-workers about his attitude and his negativity. In effect, you have become exactly what you thought was the problem.

So, take a step back and make a conscious decision to not let things bother you the way they do.

Communicate to alleviate

The most effective tool when it comes to combating negativity is communication. Open, honest communication can go a long way in gaining the confidence of your seniors and colleagues. When a nasty rumour about you is doing the rounds, instead of cowering behind the cubicle wall, take a more pro-active approach. Confront the rumourmongers and state your case in a confident, yet non-aggressive manner.

Pallavi Pant* has a success story. "My boss and I used to stay in the same area, so we used to travel to and from work together. Before we knew it, the rumour doing the rounds was that we were having an affair," says Pallavi, a sales executive with a BPO. "We ignored it at first, but I asked around and finally found out that my colleague had started the rumour out of spite. So one day, I confronted her and we had it out. Granted we didn't end up much fonder of each other but at least we had our say and now we maintain a respectful distance."

Belling the cat

Negativity could also stem from discontent over the company's policies. If employees are unhappy with a new policy that has been introduced or a change in one they were particularly fond of, chances are they will let the matter simmer over coffee-break conversations. The matter will be discussed in great detail and with even a few solutions thrown in, but as is usually the case, the discussion will stay just that and discontent will just fester.

But the problem here is, simply put, one of how to bell the cat. You and your teammates want a solution but none want to go up to the boss and talk the issue through. And that's just where the problem lies.

When your team finds itself in a similar predicament, it is suggested that all those affected by the change come together and discuss the problem. Try to have a broad-based discussion, attempting to address all sides of the issue: how it affects them, the motivation behind the change and possible solutions or compromises. Once that is done, you might want to vote for one or two spokespersons who will communicate the concerns of the group to the boss or the HR department. Remember, organisations want happy employees and (more often than not) will welcome dialogue on issues or problems employees might have.

It is important, for both you and your organisation, that you make a sincere effort to control negativity in your workplace. After all, your job is a large part of what you do and if your job makes you unhappy, chances are that discontent will flow into other spheres of your life.

Steer clear

Though getting involved might help, sometimes the best strategy is to keep your distance. A negative or pessimistic colleague may just be out to gain sympathy or attention. Don't let it bother you. It takes all sorts, and you'd be better off focussing on the positive people around you than let one sourpuss bring you down.

"One of my colleagues would see the down side to everything," says Meghna Nagpal*, who works at a call centre. "Whether it was team get-togethers or the temperature in the office, the world was just against her! At first I'd try and talk to her, get her to see the lighter side of life. But most times I'd just get dragged down myself. So, after speaking to friends, I just decided to stay away from her. I realised I couldn't change the way she felt and instead I was letting her grey mood bring me down."

So don't be just another sad face in the crowd. Remember, only you are responsible for the way you feel. Don't be afraid of what your colleagues will think of you if you take the lead. As long as your motives are clear and your methods honest, chances are you will win them over in the end while making your office a more positive place to work in.


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