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When You Don’t Know How To Deal With Negativity In Workplace

By Seiki "Stan" Hirota

Originally published November 5, 2019 on LinkedIn

We all know that positive people and positive teams deliver positive results, but I’m sure almost everyone have experienced an awkward situation of dealing with negativity in the workplace. Every company has an obligation to maintain a workplace in which all employees can focus on their work and perform at their best to deliver high performance, and be successful both personally and collectively as an organization. In light of this obligation, when improper behavior such as negativity happens in the workplace, we must resolve such situation in a clever way, because this is inconsistent with the company expectations.

When improper behavior happens, the mistake that many people make is that they regard the improper behavior as “wrong” of “bad” behavior done by “bad” person. Sometimes this is true, but in most cases, this is not true. In most cases, improper behavior stems from misunderstanding by things not being clear, or is caused by circumstances that is beyond that person’s individual control. When these issues happen, it is improper to focus on a person and his/her attitude, because that is not the root cause of the problem.

When you encounter negativity, you feel disrespect and it is natural to get frustrated. This frustration usually leads to various personal emotions and we all tend to point our finger to a person. When you focus on the person, this wrong focus creates a complete adversarial relationship, which makes it impossible to resolve the issue. When you get in this deadlock, it always end up in separating ways, which is sad because both sides probably have no bad intentions. We all know that positive people and positive teams deliver positive results. The essential ingredient for success is positive energy, but when you have negativity, how in the hell do you get out of it?

Every problem has a gift for us in its hands. We can choose to see the curse or the gift, and this is one choice that will determine if we are able to create an environment for continuous improvement for success, or just create one big soap opera. When we feel that the environment surrounding us is spinning out of our control and we can’t do anything about it, we truly feel powerless. When you get in this situation, if you want to get out of it, you can’t just talk and bitch about it, you have to act and play, regardless of your position.

When we have improper behavior and negativity in the workplace, we spend most of our time dealing with conflict and putting out fires rather than getting something meaningful done. This is very unproductive and it affects the overall performance of the organization. But we must never forget that every crisis offers an opportunity to grow stronger and wiser; to reach deep within and discover a better way of doing things to create a better outcome.

“Ship don’t sink because of all the water around them. They sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”

Like a ship, you must first decide how you want to contribute to the company vision and the expectation. When people see where you are headed, and notice the consistent effort that you are putting in, some people will start offering to help with your journey. When they do, you have to invite them to the purpose and let them on your ship and ask them to contribute and cooperate. If you are consistent with this effort, this small beginning eventually becomes a big movement, and in the end, you will be able to influence and impact, even the people that were bringing in negativity to the workplace in the first place, to join the purpose.

I’ve dealt with major negativity and improper workplace behavior several times in my career and each time, the booked called “The Energy Bus” written by Jon Gordon help me and my team to get out of the situation. If you are experiencing negativity in the workplace now and do not really know how to cope with it, I highly recommend for you to read the book, discuss the content with the people around you, and start taking small actions to direct your ship in the right direction.

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