How to stay positive amidst professional pessimism

Negative Nancys bringing you down at work and putting you in a constant funk? Get happy with some 
tips and tricks to keep you thinking positive.

Many companies are cutting positions and raises, causing those of us left to take on more work with absolutely no more compensation. People are working until 3 a.m., becoming unreliable, griping constantly and even cursing up a storm.

It’s a really depressing atmosphere, and it can be hard to keep your sunny disposition when you’re constantly subjected to it. I’ve had days where I come home barely functional, worn out from bearing the weight of the misfit corporate world on my shoulders. Other days I’d come home angry and upset. Just one inconvenience in my evening like the dog using the carpet as her personal toilet, and I’d have a mini-meltdown. Needless to say that’s no way to live, especially when your young, employed and childless, and supposed to be living it up!But how can we be mad at others and our companies when it’s always a choice to compromise your cheery attitude and work-life balance ideals instead of rising above it? And then there’s always the “People are starving in Africa and you’re complaining about a bad day!” thought, but you only know the things you’ve experienced, so that’s not likely to give you true perspective.Still it’s hard to stay up with everyone trying to bring you down. Here’s what helps me beat it:Be the leader of the pack.
Do the greatest war leaders lose their cool in the face of the enemy? Do the greatest parents have a meltdown in front of the kids when they lose their job? Does Cesar Milan go on tirades about the paparazzi getting all up in his parrillain front of his pack? NO! If you want to rise in the ranks at your job, you have to act like a leader every day. That means keeping your cool all of the time and only expressing yourself in a professional way.Think of yourself as professionally above those who stomp around angry, have a worn look on their face all the time or curse like a sailor in the conference room. By assuming leadership respectfully, you can earn the respect of your company’s leadership. And as the leader, your job is to keep your cool and if necessary remind your minions that it does no good but rile up unproductive negativity when they lose it in the office.

Focus on actions, not complaints
I’ve noticed a lot of my daily dose of negativity comes from our team meetings, where somehow we always end up dwelling on the same frustrations, making them seem like a bigger deal than they are and wasting way too much time complaining rather than taking action. To try to end this vicious cycle, I’ve begun calling out my team members, even my boss, when they start singing their woe-is-me sad song. They might not like it but they always own up to it when I say something.

A good way to do this without making your boss think you’re picking a petty fight is to address productivity:  “I understand, we’re all a bit frustrated by that issue as we’ve discussed several times. But let’s talk about something we can do to fix it.” or “Maybe we should use this time to complete that task rather than complain about it.” Let’s talk to his/her supervisor about this faux pas. Let’s prioritize our heavy workload and focus on the top. And if there’s no solution? I suggest that we accept it and move on.

Get into a healthy routine…outside of work
When people ask you what’s new, do you only cite job frustrations or accomplishments? If you make work the center of your universe, the negativity and frustration that will inevitably present itself at work will feel as serious as a marriage going bad rather than just a portion of your life that’s having trouble.

Form a healthy routine outside of work that you can look forward to at the beginning or end of each day. My new routine includes running with my dog in the morning, going to the gym to do weight training with my husband on scheduled days of the work week, and setting themed evenings such as Mad Men and Scotch night and Trivia Night at the local pub. The fact that some of these activities involve alcohol is a slight perk to forgetting about work, too…in moderation of course!

Indulge in the little things
Work doesn’t have to mean boring food, bad coffee, and an ugly grey cubicle on top of all the other woes it can bring. Add some sunshine to your work day by treating yourself to the kinds of things you might indulge in at home. I buy really yummy Greek yogurt with blueberries to have as a snack rather than relying on the standard granola bar for my break. I also buy lemon juice and put a little in my tea and water to add some flavor. Someone at work brought in a Keurig machine, so I buy myself yummy seasonal coffee to enjoy in the morning. And I’ve decorated my cubicle with my favorite pictures, college memorabilia, a quote-of-the-day calendar and a nice plant to make it more homey.

Do stuff for other people
In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, “Tis a far far better thing doing stuff for other people.” You may not have time or patience for charity work right now, but if you do, kudos. As for me, I’m still in the yuppie phase of transitioning into the real world and feeling like it’s a whole lot of work just to stay afloat, so I’ve honestly not been able to muster up any charity work. Hopefully, someday. But for now, I’m trying to do the little gestures that show people in your life that you care. And you know what? It helps me stay positive. For example, I bring in homemade cookies for work a lot, which has the dual effect of releasing my stress while I’m baking at night and cheering everyone up at work the next day. And of course, calling friends and family and listening to their problems can often take your mind off of yours.

Do a cost-benefit analysis of your workload
If the primary driver of your negativity is your increased workload, think about the costs versus benefits of maintaining your work-life balance. You’re not getting paid more for doing more work, so why are you undermining the value of your time by spending countless extra hours at work? Yet, you should understand that you’re lucky to have a job right now.

So, make a cost-benefit analysis, or some sort of fancy chart. At what point does the amount of overtime you work no longer impact your job retention? Or in other words, how much do you need to work, considering your co-worker work ethic, boss’s work-life balance policy, impact of your role on the company, etc., to keep your job and stay on good terms should a raise finally come? Keep in mind that you have a life outside of work, and your company doesn’t want to spend money on replacing you if you’re doing a pretty good job.

Also, balance the quality and speed of your work so you can limit the number of overtime hours you’re working without failing to deliver what’s needed. Do you really need to spend an afternoon prettying a chart that’s being used internally? Do you really need to spend an hour perfecting a sentence, or can you make-do with a 5-minute effort most of the time?

So, how do you deal with work frustration and negativity?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , by Chloe. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chloe

I'm a writer, editor and constant student of living (and eating) better. I currently work as an HR communications specialist in downtown Minneapolis, MN, with my very non-writery husband and a gruff little Scottish Terrier named Ginny. View my professional portfolio at, or my linked in profile at

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