The saying, "It's not your circumstances but how you respond to them that makes the difference," is particularly true in a difficult workplace. You may be faced with backstabbing co-workers, a domineering boss, and an increased workload, but because of financial considerations, quitting may not be an option. In this situation, the only thing to do is change how you view your job. This requires making a conscious effort every day to focus on the positive.
Accept the fact that you only can change your own behavior and not that of anyone else. For example, if a supervisor or colleague speaks to you in a rude tone of voice, choose to respond calmly and professionally. Psychologist Nando Pelusi recommends recognizing your own defense mechanisms, such as thinking, "I will not be treated that way" or "I won't let you get away with this," so that you don't respond to difficult individuals in a defensive and nonproductive manner.
Look at co-workers through a lens of compassion. Everyone in life has a burden they must carry, and it is not always visible to others. Consider the possibility that a short-tempered co-worker is dealing with a mental illness or a disabled spouse. While it is possible that the person may never have learned good communication skills -- or is just a jerk -- it can be helpful to view difficult people as individuals who are caught in a struggle in which they are overwhelmed.
Look at each moment as an opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of another person. If a customer is irate, make every effort to be helpful and patient. Do the best job possible on boring or repetitive tasks so that you know you are setting a standard of excellence and making other people's work easier.
Incorporate things you enjoy into your work environment. Put fresh flowers on your desk, listen to uplifting music during your lunch break, or call a friend during a break to see how she is doing. Photos of loved ones, pets, and beautiful landscapes can add pleasing scenery to a difficult work environment.
Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness. Think about the things at your job that you are grateful for each day. Include "small" things on your list, such as air conditioning, a kind remark made by a co-worker, or completing a task accurately and efficiently. Dismiss the negative aspects of your job when they enter your thoughts because they won't help you meet your goal of feeling happy at work. Patty Hlava, author of "Cultivating Gratitude," notes that mindfully practicing thankfulness has a "contagious" aspect to it because your entire life can be positively influenced by this practice.
- Psychology Today: Dealing with Difficult People
- Cultivating Gratitude; Patty Hlava
- Try to smile as much as possible so those around you can be uplifted by your positive spirit.
- Apply for new roles in the company that might help you enjoy your job better, such as joining certain committees or groups. You might make new friends or at least build your networking potential.
- Avoid the temptation to complain about your job. When you do so, you are reinforcing your negative attitude about your situation, which will affect your ability to be happy.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.