When I think about the kind of environment I would like to spend most of my days in, I don’t picture deep sighs, comments mumbled under breath, i.e., passive aggressiveness, swearing, slamming stacks of papers in frustration, gossiping, bullying, hearing about someone’s health issues, listening to people hacking up their lungs, non-stop complaining, all things summed up: I don’t picture spending my time surrounded by negativity and unhealthiness. It gives me anxiety to even read that first sentence. If you’re lucky enough to not know what I’m describing, well, you probably will at some point because you most likely haven’t entered the work world yet. And if you do know what I’m talking about, let’s face it, we are lucky regardless. To be alive, to be able to work and to have a job, we are fortunate. Sometimes though, it’s hard being an optimist surrounded by negativity. Especially the kind that takes the form of 8-hour days, 5 days a week, in isolation with colleagues who couldn’t care less.
So here I am, complaining about how much I don’t like complaining. However, instead of sitting here saying how bad this kind of environment sucks, I’m calling attention to the fact that this kind of environment just isn’t okay. Here’s why - attitudes are infectious. How can people forget that their actions and energies influence other people’s emotions and behaviors? I don’t need to get scientific here, because it’s literally common sense. It’s human interaction. And we all know that misery loves company.
Work. What a better place to come huff and puff, get your paycheck, and walk out the door every night, right? Well, no. It seems like some people don’t even care about how they affect their colleagues. A workplace ought to be one that is sustainable. Sustainable - in the sense that employees who come into work Monday through Friday (the negative ones and those affected by them) should not be counting down the hours until 5 o’clock. How long can that go on before one begins the search for a new job and eventually leaves? Not to mention the fact that an employee who is being affected by a negative environment is not as productive as they would be in a healthy one. So really, the people who are causing the negativity aren’t just hurting those around them, they’re hurting the businesses productivity. Basically, they are:
1. Giving themselves more work
2. Enabling a feeling of dissatisfaction in the company they are working for
3. Causing more things to complain about.
At least the people you care about, friends and family, don’t see your work persona, right? Wrong. Coming home from a long day at the office, you begin to let out frustrations and vent about your work with family and friends. The cycle that a toxic work environment causes doesn’t end at the office, it gets carried into the most sacred of spaces.
Work is a constant, it isn’t going anywhere because it’s how we make money to live – unless you’ve found your way to ditch the system, make enough money to quit the 9-5 hustle, and live the dream of working for yourself. And if you’ve made it, I’m so happy for you! There is no doubt that you have worked very hard and continue to do so. But if you haven’t yet and are still working within the system, I have some ideas as to how we can change negative workplaces for the better. Or at least, how to deal with an undesirable situation - starting with yourself.
1. Start on the Inside
We cannot continue to be upset by the actions of people and other things that we cannot control. Retreat into your mind, because you cannot go into someone else’s to get them to stop doing something or act a certain way. You must try to be okay with where you are in life, where you are at that moment, and accept it for what it is. It’s just an office. One office out of billions on our tiny, tiny world . . . in an ever-expanding and vast universe.
It will be okay. I mean, we’re all going to die anyway. Might as well enjoy what we got!
2. Recall how it feels when you hear someone nagging
Maybe after reading through this, you have realized that you are a part of the negative environment at your workplace. In this case, my first tip “start on the inside,” also applies to you! Ask yourself why you are bringing your problems into to your workplace and infecting your coworkers. Why are you gossiping about someone and what they did wrong, to another person instead of talking to who made the mistake? Did you know that talking directly to that person can fix the problem? Maybe you are frustrated with management. You have a voice, use it! If you don’t like how management treats you, don’t allow their behavior to change the way you move about the office. Stay true to you, stand up for yourself and your feelings. Communication and the bravery to speak your mind is the only way that we can make real changes to the culture of our workplaces.
3. Exercise on your lunch break
This is something I started to do about two months into my full-time job. I was antsy! Sitting at a desk all day is a shock to the body, especially if you’ve never had a job like this before. If you can’t hit the gym on your break, walk around and stretch your back for at least 5 minutes every hour. I still become restless every so often and need to walk around for even longer than 5 minutes. The last thing I want is to develop is an ergonomic issue because of the way I am making money.
Maybe the person who is complaining all the time isn’t just struggling mentally but could also be in physical pain. More companies ought to implement healthy living initiatives. Partnering with close by gyms to waive employee’s initiation fees would be great (if the office doesn’t have a gym, which I think the company should try for first), encouraging healthy eating by having a catered lunch or snack bar once a month with fruits and vegetables, and making their campus smoke free. A healthy body (mentally and physically) is a happy body, which leads me to my next idea. . .
4. Change your diet
I know a lot of people who order pizza every day for lunch, I’ve seen people pull McDonald’s bags out of the fridge. I am by no means shaming anyone for their food choices, but I know that when I eat foods like that, my body actually hurts. Bodies are used to what they are used to, and foods that are typically fatty, salty, greasy and all around unhealthy, might have no effect on how you feel because this is what you eat all the time. All I’m saying is that if you are truly miserable at work and in physical pain, it might be a good idea to change up your diet. Add some whole foods like grains, rice, vegetables, and fruits! Not to mention, weekly/bi-weekly grocery shopping and bringing your lunch to work is going to save you A TON of money.
This is the most important. It’s what all my previous tips come down to. If you are witnessing something that is bothering you, breathe. If you are about to make a nasty comment or go gossip about someone, breathe. If you are feeling tired and sore, get up, walk, and breathe. If you are hungry, eat something good, breathe, and be thankful that you can feed yourself.
The title of my blog is Navigating my Mind. I’ve been wanting to write about negativity in the workplace for quite some time, and for my first post, I think this really shows some of what’s been going on in my life lately. Work and non-work related, I’m learning how to breathe through the things that cause me discomfort. I hope that after reading this, you can teach yourself how to as well.