b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: Serenity Now! Can This Thwart Workplace Negativity?

11/15/2006

 

Serenity Now! Can This Thwart Workplace Negativity?

It has been suggested that merely reciting - and repeating - a favorite phrase, can help diminish workplace negativity. This is what Gary Topchik suggests in his book Managing Workplace Negativity. While I think that there are some interesting suggestions here, I had to point out this “have a favorite saying” idea.

Of course, the first thing that came to mind was Frank Costanza on Seinfeld and his whole “Serenity now” routine. It didn’t appear to really work for him, did it? It’s one thing to have a bad day or an occasional tiff with a boss or coworker, but it’s quite another if you’re stuck in a dismal situation. No amount of mantras, yoga, or meditation will get you out of that funk (believe me, I know).

Let’s see what some of the suggested sayings are. Naturally, if you have a saying of your own that brings a smile to your face, then by all means, use it. This is what I came across:

Again, for those lucky individuals that only have the occasional altercation, this could probably work. And it makes sense, really. If you’re worked up, the best thing to do is take a step back, breathe, and count to 10. It really does work.

Now, let’s look at some reasons why people would be negative at work. Negative people are:

  1. Overworked, underappreciated, and unrecognized
  2. Doubtful about the company’s future
  3. Not challenged enough
  4. Not included in departmental or company changes and restructuring
  5. Rendered powerless by their boss (or beaten down by them on a daily basis)

I certainly considered myself to be negative at my last job. It didn’t start out that way, mind you, but that’s how it ended up. Almost instantly, my job went from stellar to stagnant. So, when I read those “favorite phrases” above, here’s what I thought:

“I’m in control here.”

I’m not even a little bit in control here. I am micromanaged down to where I’m allowed to place the commas in my email memos. I have no say and I’m watched when I leave my desk even to go to the restroom.

“I’ve got another 24 hours to do as much as I can.”

Fantastic. Another 24 hours to continue taking my antidepressants that enable me to endure yet another day of torture in the 7th Circle of Hell, I mean, office.

“Wow! I’m alive, and I’m breathing.”

That means I’m around yet again for my boss to continue beating my brain to a proverbial pulp. Yay – sign me up for more of that!

So what can be done about workplace negativity?

Management (or anyone in a position to effect change) should:

-Allow employees to be heard – if they know that you’ll listen to them, it will make them feel better. Most times, people just want to know that you’re paying attention to them.

-Treat people honestly and fairly. I know that this is a stretch for some… but this is what people want.

-Offer people growth opportunities and promotions. By “growth opportunity” I don’t mean push off the grunt work and then say how it’s good for them. Honest-to-goodness challenging work. People will be motivated and inspired when they know they're working toward a goal.

-Give constructive feedback. Don’t wait until review time to do this either. Sit down periodically with your staff and let them know how they’re doing. If they’ve done well, give positive reinforcement. If they’re lagging in some areas, let them know it – but do it in a manner that will encourage them to change, not make them feel like losers.

-Bring people into the loop. One of the things that always gets people talking and raising suspicions is when there are a lot of closed-door meetings. When there are changes going on, keep the information flowing as much as possible. People want to feel included; this is a good way to do that.

Workplace negativity is unfortunately a symptom of many different events and actions. Pay attention to what they are so you can prevent it from plaguing your office. Once it sets in, it’s hard to diffuse. So, depending on your situation, perhaps the sayings will make a difference… I don’t know. If your outlook is like mine was, then you need to get the hell outta Dodge baby!


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