I am a high energy person. I'm a bit of an old hippie. I'll walk around the office in bare feet if I can get away with it and keep a crystal or two discreetly in my workspace to keep the positive vibes. It's not everyone’s thing, so I don't shout about it. However, it is well documented that people who are negative in their thoughts and their outlook, attract more negativity in life. In fact, in a recent study, researchers at University College London say they found repetitive negative thinking is linked to cognitive decline, a higher number of harmful protein deposits in the brain, and consequently a greater risk of dementia.
Dementia risk aside, negative energy, if ignored can spread through your organisation and your culture like a toxic cloud. I can almost guarantee that every person reading this will have experienced the office mood hoover. Someone who never has anything positive to say - and yet they stay in their job - spread misery like an (unmentionable) virus. They act as though their job is something that is 'done to them' and their vibe is uneasy and off-putting to everyone experiencing it.
On the flip side positive people are compassionate, supportive and humorous, and when faced with a problem they immediately seek solutions. They realise that they are in the driving seat and that they control whether they have a good day or a bad one. You will instinctively feel secure around these people and their vibe is very welcoming.
A person’s energy is a combination of their past, their mindset, their dominant thoughts, and their perception of the world as they see it.
The negative people in your work environment have the power to change the culture of your organisation and not for the better - so how do you work with these people to change their mindset? It's not easy, but here are a few strategies that may help:
- Have a real conversation: Ask them why they choose to work here, how they think their outlook impacts their colleagues and how they want to be perceived in the workplace. Chances are they won’t have seen their behaviour as being negative, they will think they're being 'real' or 'honest'. They need to be able to see how their constant negative output impacts their colleagues - and themselves. If they see this, then ask them how much they want to change it? How committed are they to changing it? It may be that they don't / won't in which case you may decide to part ways and that opens up a different conversation.
- Give them an outlet: They won’t be able to turn around those internalised negative thoughts overnight. They need to be channelled in a less destructive manner. If they are frustrated with the way things are done, then allow them to feed this back constructively in a 1-2-1 rather than constantly voicing it to anyone who'll listen from the sandwich man to the CEO.
- Make them come up with solutions: How would they do things differently? Channelling their negative moaning into constructive feedback and solution finding will make them realise they do have some control over their environment. They will also realise that solutions are not as obvious as they might think! Make sure it’s a coaching conversation with them taking ownership of their thoughts and ideas, otherwise whoever is taking the 1-2-1 will end up being a sponge for their negativity.
- Give them some self-help material to really turn things around they need to change their internal dialogue. Old habits die hard, so this will require commitment and hard work from them. There are few good ones listed here https://upjourney.com/best-positive-thinking-books to get them started!
A final reality check here before I sign off - nobody wants a workplace full of glib people who are afraid to disagree with or challenge an idea in case they are seen as being negative. The trick is to make sure you provide an environment where you connect with the needs of your people and create a culture of ownership so that these challenges can be managed in a positive way. Challenge and debate are good - wallowing in toxic negativity because of an unmet need is not.
Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach