I once worked with a woman who was so depressing to be around that people literally fast-walked to their offices and slammed the doors to get away from her. We all ate our lunches in our offices behind closed doors, because otherwise we would be subjected to her whining and complaining in the break room.
I wish I had been a little smarter about what she was doing to all of us. After writing this story, I think I could have employed these strategies to combat her negativity and perhaps turn her into a nicer human being to be around. See if you can also relate to this latest story I did for Gannett/USA Today.com.....
There's no worse feeling than arriving at work and immediately being hit with a bucket full of negativity.
"I can't believe I have so much to do. I'll never get it all done. I'll probably be fired, and then I'll lose my house and my kids will starve," a co-worker whines.
Before you can form a response, another colleague chimes in: "You think you have a lot to do? This customer wants a new price quote within the hour. And then the idiot will probably tell me it's still not good enough."
You haven't even taken off your coat and you're ready to crawl under your desk and hide for the rest of the day.
How can you keep yourself motivated when you're surrounded by a morass of negative colleagues — not to mention a boss who is yelling your name across the room?
"I can't imagine why I don't have that report on my desk!" he booms at you. "Did aliens come into my office and take it? Are you going to send it to me telepathically?"
Now is about the time you wish you had won the lottery so that you could just walk out the door and leave your boss and your co-workers behind. But you didn't score the big time, so you've got to figure out a way to survive this job.
Michelle Gielan, a partner health and wellness consultant with Good Think Inc., says it's not unusual to feel overwhelmed when negative comments are being thrown right and left. She says research shows it can often take three positives to balance out one negative, so if your workplace is stocked with even a few negative people, it can be a challenge to overcome it.
And you do want to overcome it, she says.
If you don't, the mirror neurons network in your brain that enabled you to mimic adult behavior when you were a child will kick in and you'll start to fall into negativity yourself, she says.
But the good news is that you can also influence negativity to move in the other direction.
"It's a two-way street. Emotions are contagious," she says. "So if you've got a negative boss, you can be positive and impact that person."
How do you stay upbeat when you feel burdened by negativity in the workplace? Gielan advises:
• Identify the Debbie Downers. Sometimes certain colleagues are like a dark raincloud, so limit interaction with these folks, she says.
"If they set the social script in the office with their negativity, then you also have the ability to set it to be positive," she says.
• Break the pattern. If you find yourself constantly complaining about the economy with your colleagues, break free of that cycle by finding more positive things to talk about.
While you may need to know about current events for your job, don't dwell on less-than-encouraging news and try to balance it with stories about people doing good works.
• Handle social networking carefully. While chatting with friends online can be "amazing for boosting your well-being," the same cannot be said when you get into snarky interactions with strangers, she says.
"If you're just sort of cruising through news feeds and looking at people you don't know, it doesn't add much to life," she says. "It can make you feel detached and lonely."
Instead, use your social networking to add meaning to your life and enhance conversations with people you know, Gielan says.
• Build in down time. "We all need to know our limits," Gielen says. "There has to be a point where you turn off the cellphone and the computer at a certain point in the day and just do something for fun or to de-stress."
She cautions that pushing yourself today could result in burnout tomorrow.
"I think bosses respect limits," she says. "Don't go beyond what you can handle."
What are your strategies for dealing with negativity at work?