Entering the doors of a workplace where the atmosphere is so negative it's palpable can suck the life of of you. But finding a new job isn't always a viable solution either. You can take steps to avoid the negativity, but it's not always easy and in some cases, it will cost you friendships or, in dire situations, can result in you leaving your job.
Stay Out of Personality Conflicts
Personality conflicts between two coworkers are often the source of negative attitudes that infect an entire department or company. The negativity spreads beyond the original combatants because other people in the office take sides. An office can become so polarized that it's very difficult not to choose a side; trying to be Switzerland and stay neutral can mean that you're standing -- and eating at lunch -- alone, as everyone else has lined up on either side of the battle line. In this case, you can consider several options: moving on, choosing the least objectionable side or going to higher-ups for help with the chaos that the situation is causing in the office.
Don't Gripe (Out Loud)
Contributing to negativity by letting everyone know how you feel never makes situations better, and it might earn you a reputation as being part of the problem. If you have legitimate gripes, take them to the appropriate person --who generally isn't the person in the cubicle next to you. Don't go to the other extreme and turn into Mary Sunshine, spreading cheer everywhere, either; when there are legitimate issues in an office, no one wants to have Ms. Head-in-the-Sand telling them how good they have it. But do take opportunities to give genuine praise to others and maintain a positive attitude about your own work. You're the only person you can change.
Don't Listen to Negativity
In most offices, one or two people are responsible for a large part of the negativity. You might not be able to avoid them if they sit right next to you, but if you can, try. Choose another lunch table or go out to lunch to avoid listening to a half hour of complaints that will sour your stomach. If you can't avoid them, politely tell them you don't want to hear it and get up and walk out of your cubicle when they start their tirade, or pick up your phone and make a call to indicate that you are done listening. If it gets really bad, ask for a change of offices. Do whatever it takes to show you're not willing to listen to complaints or negativity.
Keep It In Context
Work is a big part of your life, but it isn't your whole life. Try to leave workplace issues at work rather than brooding about them for eight more hours at home. If you're so miserable from wallowing in negativity for eight hours, look for a new job. Just remember that the grass isn't always greener; all workplaces have some degree of conflict and negativity; it's a part of working with other people. In some cases, negativity is a temporary reaction to changes being implemented or some other situation that might resolve once everyone realizes that change isn't always negative. Don't jump ship too soon.
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