We've all walked into those workplaces that just feel … off. Negativity fills the air. You can practically cut the tension with a knife. People look miserable. The environment makes you want to turn around and run as far away as possible – and that's whether you're a client or an employee.
Clearly, these negative work spaces can have devastating consequences on the people who inhabit them and the business as a whole. The good news is that, no matter what your role, you can help improve the environment where you work. It's everyone's responsibility. Every person, at every level, has an impact. So everyday you get to choose if you're going to contribute to the negativity or create positivity in its place. The latter is obviously preferable, so here are some easy ways to get started.
1. Look for agreement first. We've all worked with Negative Nancy. She's the kind of person who always sees the bad in every situation. When you have an idea, she pokes a million holes in it. Her first inclination is to find all the reasons things won't work, and she seems to relish in the conflict she creates.
Don't be a Negative Nancy. Instead, look for opportunities to align with the people around you. Find solutions, not problems. Focus on common goals and areas where you agree. After that, if you have disagreements to discuss, you'll be building from a place of shared purpose. Approaching workplace discussions from this point-of-view is much more positive and, ultimately, more productive for everyone involved.
2. Be a team cheerleader. Everyone – yes, everyone – likes to feel appreciated and recognized for his or her contributions at work. Receiving positive feedback can do wonders for your motivation and your overall state of mind.
Sadly, today's workplaces are sorely lacking in this arena. Take it upon yourself to tell others that they're doing a good job. All too often we wait for this kind of praise to come from the top down. Even if you're not a manager, you can certainly encourage the people around you – whether subordinates, co-workers or even superiors. As long as the recognition is authentic, it's appropriate and (usually) very appreciated.
3. Build trust. Trust is an amazing emotion that makes people feel safe. When you help to instill trust among your colleagues, you create a comforting, warm environment for everyone. When trust is missing, people become guarded and fearful, edgy and nervous.
Always start from a place of trusting that your colleagues are capable and competent. Have faith that they will support you as much as you support them. In most cases, people will rise to meet your expectations and trust will continue to blossom naturally.
4. Get (a little) personal. Most of us spend more time with the people we work with than we do our friends and family. So why not get to know them on a (somewhat) personal level? You don't want to go overboard here, but a little personal interaction goes a long way. Find out what you have in common with your co-workers. Maybe you have kids the same age, or you share a love for your local baseball team or you enjoy the same weekend hobbies. Get to know them as people, not just fellow employees. By doing so, you'll lighten up the conversation and enjoy being around them more. Heck, you might even look forward to seeing them on Monday mornings.
5. Brighten things up. While the mental and social environment can have a serious impact on the workplace as a whole, the physical environment is just as important. If you work in a dark, drab, chaotic workspace it's no surprise that it feels like a downer to spend time there.
Open up some windows, bring in some plants and photographs, play some music, switch out those horrible fluorescent light bulbs … essentially, do anything within your control to shift the physical space to something more pleasant. An easy way to fix things up is simply to purge old stuff – paperwork, files, magazines, etc. These items tend to stack up, creating useless, dusty clutter. Clear it out and enjoy a brand new level of clarity.
These simple tips will help turn any space into a more positive and productive place to work. And remember, everyone has an impact on the environment, so ask yourself, "Am I currently contributing in a positive or negative way?" If you're using your powers for evil rather than good, make a shift today. You (and everyone you work with) will be glad you did.
Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a nourishing life experience. As a career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.