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3 Strategies to Stamp Out Workplace Negativity


Workplace negativity can kill your productivity and hurt your motivation, concentration and engagement. These strategies will help you contend with complainers and whiners at work to protect your efficiency and your sanity.

  1. Distance yourself. Just as you might give yourself some physical distance from a chain-smoker to avoid secondhand smoke, so too must you get space from colleagues who'd rather complain than work, advises Trevor Blake, the author of "Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life."

    "There's a big difference between bringing your attention to something that's awry and a complaint," Blake told Inc. "Typically, people who are complaining don't want a solution, they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing. You can almost hear brains clink when six people get together and start saying, 'Isn't it terrible?' This will damage your brain even if you're just passively listening. And if you try to change their behavior, you'll become the target of the complaint."

  2. Empower the whiner to fix the issue himself. "I typically respond to a complaint with, 'What are you going to do about it?'" says Blake. While this angers some colleagues, others become motivated to proactively solve the very problem that's been plaguing them. Author Will Bowen suggests a more subtle approach in a similar article for the Wall Street Journal: "It sounds like you and [target of complaints] have something to talk about."
  3. Go to your happy place. Imagine a peaceful, magical place that makes you happy whenever a workplace complainer has you in his or her clutches. This imaginary defense mechanism can protect negativity from penetrating into your psyche.

Gallup research indicates that workgroups with high negativity rates also have higher rates of quality defects and absenteeism; their productivity is also lower when compared to more positive workplaces. How do you fight negativity at work?

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(Photo credit: Marvin Lee/Flickr)

Marissa Brassfield
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