Staying Positive in a Negative Environment

Published: Sep 12, 2006

By Julie Fuimano, Executive Coach

Probably one of the hardest things we must do as leaders is to stay positive when everyone else around us is negative. It's not easy to maintain a positive attitude and not be drained or consumed by the negativity that surrounds you. But as a leader, that's exactly what you must do. Here are five things you can do to be the positive force in your workplace:

Observe yourself in action. Are you listening to gossip or participating in conversations where the only focus is to denigrate, diminish, or criticize people or things? If the conversation feels bad, it's probably negative. Stop saying or doing anything that is negative.

Recognize negativity when it occurs around you. Sometimes, you can even feel your energy being drained by the words being spoken. Again, if it feels bad or uncomfortable then it's negative. How do you feel? What is happening? What behavior is being displayed? If you can identify what is happening, then you can make good choices about handling it. The first step is awareness.

Speak up! Tell the other person how you feel. Use the words, "This doesn't work for me." People often don't realize they are being negative. Point out to the person that they are being negative in a gentle and caring way. "Do you realize you are complaining?" Sometimes, just bringing it to their attention is enough to shift the conversation. If you say nothing, then your silence gives them permission to continue.

Make your conversations constructive, meaning that the conversation should be positive, meaningful, and beneficial. What's the point or purpose of the conversation? Is it to hurt or help? And at the end of the conversation, what would you like to have happen? Is there an action step to take? Constructive conversations have the effect of leaving people a little better off from having participated in them.

Offer praise! It's amazing what a few words of praise and acknowledgement can do to make people feel good. You want people to feel good after being in your presence. You want to be the kind of person people gravitate to because they know they will be uplifted by you, not put down or drained of their energy.

So when others are negative, stretch your boldness muscles and be positive in spite of what others do or think. It takes a true leader to walk a path different from the crowd. It's the only way to create a ripple of change. And we know that from small beginnings come great things. If each of us does our part, then slowly but surely, we will make a difference our work environment and the community at large.

Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN is an Executive Coach with Nurturing Your Success Inc., working with people who are frustrated, stressed and unhappy and who are ready to give up being overwhelmed for the time, peace and happiness they desire. Clients report increased clarity and focus, confidence and control in situations. They say no to what they don't want -- without guilt -- and yes to what they do; they receive more respect, have more time for themselves and have more fun. Call (610) 277-2726 or write to to explore how coaching would work for you or your organization. Fuimano is a popular speaker, world-renowned writer and author of The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance, a manual for personal leadership and available wherever books are sold. Sign up for her e-newsletter here.

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