Attitude is catching. It can jump from person to person like a forest wildfire jumps tree to tree. Think about that negative person at work. You know the one. She rarely has anything positive to say. The smallest event sets her off. When she gets like that, people around her find reasons to escape, in fear of catching her negative vibe. The Institute of HeartMath, one of a number of scientific bodies that study the effects of positive and negative attitudes and emotions, also links them to health and disease. Attitudes at work have long-reaching effects in the workplace environment and beyond.
People's attitudes in the workplace directly affect job performance, teamwork, creativity, leadership, decision-making, turnover and negotiations, according to Wharton University professor Sigal Barsade and Dr. Donald Gibson, dean of Dolan's School of Business. People are not islands, emotionally or otherwise, the two said in a paper. "Rather, they bring all of themselves to work, including their traits, moods and emotions, and their affective experiences and expressions influence others." People are conductors for emotions in the same way utility lines conduct electricity.
People with positive attitudes tend to fare better at work because they can process information with greater awareness and efficiency, and more appropriately. People with negative moods and attitudes dedicate excess time and energy to supporting the mood, which prohibits them from taking in the needed information that can help them perform better in their jobs. A negative attitude puts a negative spin on new information coming in, which prevents a clear view of the circumstances or situation. A positive attitude takes less energy to maintain, which allows a person to be more responsive in the work environment.
Employees' attitudes are essential to what happens in the workplace. When you are in a brainstorming session or a staff meeting, it's hard for everyone to not be bothered by the negative person who attacks ideas that bloom from brainstorming. A negative attitude stifles the flow of ideas between people because it shuts down creative thinking processes. Make a decision to avoid negativity by not letting a negative person become the focal point for the meeting. When the person with the negative attitude is allowed to rant, the whole group can become contaminated by the negativity.
Negativity and Stress
There is already enough stress in the workplace dealing with the day-to-day issues that arise. Venting or repressing anger, one form of negativity, in the workplace or anywhere else increases stress for yourself and others. A negative attitude can lead to a greater risk of developing heart disease and other health-related problems. Emotional management -- changing negative attitudes to positive ones -- can actually undo the cardiovascular effects caused by negativity.
Lead with a Positive Attitude
A positive attitude can help buffer negativity in the workplace. You can't change people's basic nature, but you have the choice to avoid them whenever possible. If you find that a co-worker continually brings you down, minimize your contact with her to keep your attitude positive. Maintaining a positive attitude adds emotional resilience to negative attitudes and continues to spiral toward greater well being, emotions and attitudes. When you maintain your positive attitude, it can reverberate throughout the entire organization. Besides -- you know it's true -- a positive attitude just feels better.
- Wharton University of Pennsylvania: Managing Emotions in the Workplace: Do Positive and Negative Attitudes Drive Performance?
- Wharton University of Pennsylvania: Sigal Barsade
- Fairfield University: Dr. Donald E. Gibson
- Institute of HeartMath: Science of the Heart -- Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Undoing Effect of Positive Emotions
- University of Michigan Ross School of Business: Leading with Positive Emotions
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.