Dr. Michael Mantell brings decades of experience in turning the most challenging workplaces around, often in partnership with leading human resource professionals. In this column, he describes the causes of negativity, the consequences of negativity and how to turn negativity into positivity and profit.
Can you think of anything that affects you more insidiously at work than persistent workplace negativity? All right, getting a whopping raise, a promotion or on the other end of the scale, being terminated or laid off, may also get your short term attention – good or bad. But negativity in the workplace saps the energy right out of you, diverts critical attention from your work, and lowers overall morale. Eventually, you get so fed up, all you think about is leaving. And if the extreme, it can lead to violence.
Sure negativity in the workplace comes from stressful working conditions, miscommunication or poor communication from management and between co-workers, but the major source of negativity in the workplace comes from a far more complicated place. Negativity in general comes from perceptions, beliefs and negative inner dialogue. Negative behavior, whether in the workplace or anywhere else, however, primarily comes from behavior or attitudes that results from child-like needs that go unmet.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “attitude” as, “A way of acting, feeling or thinking; one’s disposition, mental set.” I define attitude as a set of thoughts. Negative attitudes – thoughts - prevent others and ourselves from getting what we want in our lives. Negative thinking and feelings – attitudes -- lead to negative actions. Our life experiences and level of self-esteem help determine our attitudes.
Here are ten issues that can create negativity when unfulfilled:
1. control
2. boundaries
3. abandonment
4. denial
5. independence/dependence
6. responsibility/irresponsibility
7. need to be liked
8. authority
9. need for excitement and chaos
10. loyalties
So here are some questions to ask yourself to help you better understand your own attitudes:
1. Do you lack enjoyment or enthusiasm when you think of going to work?
2. Are you tired of inconsistencies in policy, communication and direction of your company?
3. Are certain philosophies and attitudes lauded but not practiced?
4. When a new program is introduced do you think, “This too shall pass.”
5. Do you feel you can make a difference?
It is important for you to balance optimism and pessimism. If your pessimistic thoughts are overcoming you, you have become completely nearsighted. You see change as threatening, believe “it won’t work,” or “it hasn’t worked,” and focus only on what’s wrong, the pitfalls, the traps, the snares, and the hazards.
Unrestrained optimism is visionary, sees change as enlivening, invigorating and electrifying, believes that “it’s all possible,” and yes, may even be a bit unrealistic.
Pragmatism, the middle point, focuses on concerns, points to change, offers suggestions stimulates other people to think of ideas and is realistic. This is the aim.
Everyone’s job requires a different outlook. You need to know what your position requires and what you’ve been bringing to the workplace. Be sure it’s not an attitude that toxic, deadly or lethal.
Here’s a simple model that I’ve used with many company executives I’ve coached and mentored and have found great success with it. It’s called the SEEDS model. You can use it as a way to examine a situation and to look at whether you are approaching it optimistically or pessimistically:
S= Situation – What are the facts of the situation?
E= Explanation – What are you telling yourself about the situation and why it happened?
E= Emotion – What are your feelings about the situation? (happiness, anger, bitterness, joy, sadness)
D= Do – What are you going to do about the situation?
S= Self-esteem – Will your self-esteem increase or decrease because of the action you are going to take?
If you react defensively, with hostility or resentment, or with a feeling of chronic helplessness, you are reacting to the situation you’ve analyzed using the SEEDS model, with one of the three key negative reactions seen in the workplace.
You must craft a barrier against negativity in the workplace, especially when it’s coming from you. Here’s how: Cancel your negative self-talk, Replace the negative self-talk, Affirm your new self-image, Focus on an image that defines success and Train yourself for lasting positive change. In case you’d like another pneumonic to help you remember those five steps, try CRAFT.
But what if the negativity is coming from a negative personality at work? You know the ones I mean, the perfectionists, the resisters, the “not-my-jobbers,” the rumormongers, the criticizers, the crybabies, the eggshells or the scapegoaters.
As for the perfectionist, don’t take his statements seriously. You are only seeing his inadequacies being played out. Help them understand they are accepted and this may lead to more realistic expectations on their part.
Gradually involve the resistor in change. By becoming part of the process, their resistance will surely decrease. Go slow.
The “not-my=jobber” needs training and development opportunities to help them overcome their dead-end lack of enthusiasm.
Rumormongers in the workplace believe they need facts. Give it to them, and then be certain you never listen to their rumors. Just the facts.
Ask the criticizers for examples, evidence or their reasons for disagreeing. Don’t give up and stay tenacious.
Crybabies need support and constant encouragement. They also need to have their stress and pressure levels lowered.
Eggshells need to have negative feedback given to them in very small, slow doses without making it personal. Be sure they have integrated the negative feedback before you move forward with them.
Lastly, give specific examples to the scapegoater of how his or her errors, mistakes or miscalculations were the problem, not someone else’s. And above all remember that the problem is not the problem. How you react to the problem is the problem. Choose positivity.
Stay positive and have a successful day at work.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. His career includes serving as the Chief Psychologist for Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and as the founding Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He also served on the faculty of UCSD’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry.

After retiring from practicing clinical psychology for 40 years, he has become a highly sought after transformational behavior coach and power mentor for professional and elite amateur athletes, senior executive business leaders, and trains the nation’s top leaders in fitness in transformational leadership. He has worked in the media for nearly 40 years, appearing on every major talk and news show, and has been interviewed in, and written for, every major health and fitness magazine.
Michael is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Science for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa, and served as the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise.

Michael is an Organizational Advisor to Fitwall, Rock My Run, amSTATZ, Outburst Mobile, and speaks regularly for Rancho La Puerta and the Asia Fitness Conference in Bangkok, in addition to numerous other fitness-health organizations throughout the nation. He has been a keynote speaker for the University of California’s system wide “FitCon” and for UCLA’s “Stress Less Week” as well as for the Transformational Leadership Council.

He is a best-selling author of three books including the 25th Anniversary updated edition of his 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff,” and his 1996, “Ticking Bombs: Defusing Violence in the Workplace.” He is listed in greatist.com’s 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.” His fourth book is due out soon.
Check out drmichaelmantell.net