Pinpointing the Cause
1Identify when your bad attitude began. Did you always have a bad attitude at work? Perhaps your attitude change has been more recent. Have you recently started a new job or position? Did your duties shift or did a new manager arrive? Did one of your favorite colleagues leave? Do you feel like you don’t have any other friends in the office? Perhaps your business has been been reorganized. Understanding when your bad attitude began can help you determine the cause.
- If you haven’t always had a bad attitude at work, consider the possibility that the problem may not entirely be with you. No person lives in a vacuum, and things like abusive bosses and negative coworkers can have a significant influence.
- If you used to enjoy your work and now feel negatively about it, consider what has changed. Have you moved to a new position? Maybe you don’t feel suited to your new duties yet. Are you at a different place in life? For example, perhaps as a teenager you enjoyed your job in retail, but ten years on you’re looking for more than your current retail job can give you. A feeling of dissatisfaction or purposelessness could cause a bad attitude at work.
2Write timed diary entries. Keep a journal about your attitude at the office. Do timed diary entries throughout the day, every few hours or so. Do you notice any trends? Do you tend to have a worse attitude in the morning or late afternoon when you are tired? Does your attitude change depending on with whom you have a meeting? Other colleagues’ attitudes could also impact you. If, for example, every afternoon you have a meeting with a negative colleague, perhaps this person is impacting your attitude. Being aware of shifts in your daily mood can pinpoint when and with whom your bad attitude emerges.
- If you hit a “midday slump” and get grouchy, the fix could be as simple as getting up to take a short walk or eating a healthy snack.
- If you notice that you frequently feel bad after interacting with one person, such as your boss or a coworker, you’ll need to figure out how to address this. Taking action regarding negative influences at work can help you feel happier and more productive.
3Reflect on your feelings. Now that you’ve determined when your bad attitude began and when it often appears, think about how exactly you feel in these moments. Write down how you feel when your attitude is negative. Perhaps you are feeling frustrated, tired, bored, or undervalued. Identifying your emotions is key to taking action.
- For example, imagine you see the following journal entry: “Boss yelled at me for being late with a project. I felt really dumb and stupid.” This entry suggests you should talk to your boss about speaking to you more constructively, and also that you should remember that making the occasional mistake doesn’t mean you’re stupid.
1Take responsibility for your attitude. Although your circumstances can certainly influence how you feel, you develop your attitude from how you approach your circumstances. You alone determine how you respond to your personal situation. Recognizing that change begins with you is the first step towards improving your attitude.
- For example, even if you have a horrible boss or a negative coworker, you can still choose to respond in negative or in positive ways. Will you contribute to the problem, or will you work to make it better?
- Negativity can spread from person to person. Do not let yourself be a transmitter.
2Avoid negative trigger items. Do you always feel negative after reading certain newspapers? Perhaps watching the morning news puts you in a downwards spiral. When you have identified what things cause you to have a bad attitude, try to reduce your exposure to these items.
- If you cannot reduce your exposure to negative items, change your reaction to them. When you see negative news like a story about a natural disaster, think instead about how you could help. Could you donate money, clothes, food, or your time? Consider positive actions that you can take in response to negative items.
3Reduce interactions with negative people. If you have one particular colleague who always brings you down, try to reduce your interactions with him. If it is impossible to avoid him, ask him positive questions. Ask him what is going well with his work that day. Ask him what his favorite movies are. Try to steer your conversations towards positive topics.
Talking with Your Coworkers
1Speak kindly. It can be tempting to use negativity when talking about issues, especially if they are serious problems. However, negativity breeds more negativity. Try these tactics instead:
- Instead of saying something like “Bad idea—it’ll never work,” say something like, “I have concerns about that. Would you like to hear them?”
- Instead of passive aggression, which says things you don’t mean or communicates sarcastically, be direct. For example, avoid saying things like, “Noooo, why would I have a problem?” if you are upset. Instead, try something like, “Yes, I am not happy with how you’ve been talking to me in front of my coworkers. Can we talk?”
- Workplace gossip can be a huge problem that contributes to negative attitudes. Don’t participate in it.
2Be a positive presence. Greet people happily and even if you are having a bad day, try not to spread gloom at work. Understand the concept of WOW–watch our words. What you say reflects what you feel and believe. Let your voice be a positive one of encouragement in the workplace. Offer smiles, compliments, and support to others.
- If you are going through a rough time or have experienced a tragic event, do speak with your supervisor or a trusted coworker to let her know that you might need support. 
3Approach a problem colleague. If a colleague’s negativity is bringing you down, try approaching him politely. It’s entirely possible he’s making others uncomfortable too, but nobody feels comfortable explaining the problem.
- Keep your statements “I”-focused, such as “I would like to talk to you about something. I notice that lately you’ve been talking a lot about what bothers you about your clients. I know we all have irritations with our clients, but the consistent focus on negativity is really making it hard for me to stay positive and energized at work. Would you like to talk about what’s going on?” Using “I”-statements avoids issuing blame or sounding judgmental, and can keep your coworker from going on the defensive.
4Listen to what he has to say. You don’t know what is going on with your coworker, so listen to him as he explains. Maybe his mother is ill and that’s making him more irritable. Maybe he’s worried about underperforming, or doesn’t feel valued as a team member. Understanding where the negativity is coming from can help you work together to reduce it. In many cases, your colleague may just be glad to have someone to listen.
- Use empathetic statements, such as “That sounds like it’s really hard for you” or “I’m sorry you’re going through that.”
- Even if the conversation doesn’t go well, you have tried to address the problem. If you need to take the matter to HR or to your boss, you will be able to say you tried to work with the other person and didn’t get anywhere.
5Recognize the signs of an abusive boss. Everyone can have a bad day now and then, but some people are just workplace bullies. If your boss is abusive, or even simply not very constructive in how she gives criticism, it can make it very hard to keep a good attitude at work.
- Abusive, unacceptable behaviors include: intimidation, harassment, deceit, humiliation, personal criticism or name-calling, and aggression. If the behavior is consistently and significantly abusive or hostile, you may have a legal case.
- For example, if your boss criticizes your work by saying, “This looks terrible! My grandmother could write a better report!” this is an abusive behavior. However, it probably isn’t enough to sue her over.
- Sometimes, bosses just don’t have very good communication skills. For example, if your boss criticizes your work by saying, “This is terrible. Fix it,” it isn’t necessarily abusive, but it definitely isn’t helpful. It’s also likely to make you feel bad about yourself. If you think your boss’s communication style could use some work, it’s a good idea to approach her about it.
6Speak with your boss. It can be hard to have a good attitude at work when your boss is abusive, either to you or to others. You may be afraid to approach your boss, but negative bosses can actually make you less efficient and make you anxious. Be mindful of power dynamics when approaching your boss. Be polite, tactful, and considerate.
- Approach the issue as a collaboration. Remember, your boss may not even realize that she has a problem, and she may not be intending to be hurtful. For example, you could say something like, “I notice I’m having some issues at work. Can we chat about ways to address them?”
- Look for common ground. For example, you could say something like, “I know we both really value making sure that our projects are high quality” to let your boss know that you and she have the same ultimate goal.
- Be direct but respectful. Use “I”-statements. You could say something like, “I’ve found I work best with specific, concrete feedback rather than general commentary. Do you think you could offer me more specific feedback on my reports? I think that would really help me make them the best they can be.”
- Be honest. If your boss has said things that are belittling, harassing, or mean-spirited, be clear about that, but avoid sounding judgmental. For example, you could try something like, “I really felt hurt when you yelled at me in front of my office-mates last week. It would help me if you talked with me privately about areas where I can improve.” By modeling clear, honest, but polite discussion of your feelings, you may even help your boss deal with you better.
- Avoid passive-aggressive behaviors. While studies suggest they may be better than nothing, they don’t communicate your actual needs and wishes to your boss.
7Apologize to others. If your negative attitude has impacted your team members, consider apologizing to them. Share that you have been having a rough time but are striving to do better. Ask others to hold you accountable. When they hear negativity coming from you, they can tell you to stop.
- For example say, “Hi, everyone. You might have noticed that I have been complaining a lot recently about our company and the hours we work. I am sorry for bringing down the energy here at the office. I actually know that our company offers great benefits and support to us and I am very grateful for that. I am going to try to be more positive from now on!”
Striving to Be Positive
Brainstorm some alternatives. Once you discover what is causing your counter-productive attitude, determine what you can do to remedy those causes. For example, if your attitude suffers because you feel tired, try to sleep more at night. Alternatively, you could take power naps during your lunch and break times. If your work is not challenging enough and you feel bored, ask your supervisor about taking on new tasks.
2Focus on having a positive mindset. How you think about something ultimately is how you will feel about something. If you want to control your attitude, be aware of your thoughts. Focus on the positive things. Eliminate your negative thoughts by consciously attempting to think with a positive, internal voice.
- For example, when you feel frustrated because someone is taking too much space on the subway, think instead about how grateful you are for public transit. Think positively about how happy you are not to have to drive your car through snow and ice to work.
- Remind yourself to think positively during tense moments in the day. For example, before starting your commute or before a big meeting, pause and reflect on what has been going well. Watch out for negative thoughts such as, “Wow, I am not looking forward to this meeting. Sarah is always so hard on me.” Instead, try thinking: “I’m looking forward to hearing what Sarah has to say about my pitch. I think her feedback could be useful.”
- Thinking positively takes practice. Do not feel frustrated if your mind sometimes wanders back to negativity.
- Stoicism encourages positive thinking but also allows you to visualize the worst-case scenario when your thoughts dwell on negative moments. Usually you can handle more than you think. See Be Stoic for more tips.
3Express gratitude. Consider creating a gratitude list. Write down all the personality traits and friends for which you are grateful. Focus on the things for which you are grateful. Tell others out loud. Consider doing this exercise while preparing to sleep. Reflect on what well during the day.
- Trade your bad attitude for more gratitude. When you miss a meeting because of road construction, change your attitude. Rather than being frustrated about bad traffic, find some gratitude. Survey your surroundings and consider all the things for which you are thankful. For example, you could be thankful for your health, mental wellbeing, physical strength, close friends and family, or the natural beauty that surrounds you.
- Recognize with humility your place in the world and how wonderful it is to be living. Think of life as a gift rather than a right.
4State positive affirmations. Throughout your day, realign your thinking through positive affirmations. Construct sentences that speak of personal strength, conviction, and self-confidence. For example, you could say, “Today, I am going to use my IT knowledge to improve our website. I will be diligent and industrious and do my best.” If you repeat affirmations several times each day, you can train your subconscious into thinking positively. Sending positive responses to your subconscious, you will trigger positive feelings that then drive action.
- Keep your affirmations focused on what you have control over. If you try a positive affirmation that relies on others’ actions or responses, you may well find that it doesn’t work out, because you can’t control how anyone behaves except yoursel.
- For example, an unhelpful affirmation might look like: “Everything is going to go great today!” You don’t have control over that. A colleague might be having a hard day. An important file might get corrupted. You might spill your lunch all over yourself. However, if you repeat an affirmation such as “I am strong enough to get through whatever life throws at me today,” you’re focused on what you can do, which will be helpful.
- For some people, eliminating any thoughts of the negative can actually be detrimental. In those cases, it is best to acknowledge the negative and move forward. Recognize your imperfections but still look for the positive.
5Visualize your better attitude. How do you look? Are you smiling or being friendly? Psychological studies about peak performance suggest that many successful people, like Nelson Mandela for example, use visualizations to improve their skills and talents. By picturing your good attitude, you might start to believe you have one.
- Give your visualization as much detail as possible. The more detail, the more likely you will be to use it as a way to drive yourself to that goal.
Bringing Your Attitude to Work
Approach your work realistically. Have a clear mental image of what your relationship to work should be. Accept that certain tasks of your job might be less fulfilling than others. Aim to do these tasks with a positive attitude. Consider rewarding yourself with a coffee or other reward after completing long, tiresome tasks.
2Set work goals for yourself. Take your strengths and weaknesses into account. Focus on accomplishing your tasks in a way that is tailored to your personal work style. For a major goal like finishing a big project, set smaller sub-goals. That way each time you accomplish a sub-goal you will feel a sense of accomplishment. In the end, seeing your goals come to fruition can benefit your attitude towards work.
- For example, if you have a huge project to finish that is stressing you out, try to separate it into sub-tasks such as “Research the market information on Monday,” “Consult with the small business advisor on Tuesday,” “Write an outline on Wednesday,” “Write a first draft on Thursday,” and “Revise on Friday.” This is much more do-able than a single huge goal, and will give you a positive sense of accomplishment as you check off the sub-tasks.
3Meet with your supervisor. Explain that you have identified ways in which you would like to improve your productivity at work. Ask for new tasks. Explain that you want to do you best at work. Discuss opportunities for a different work pattern or schedule. Perhaps your company does volunteer initiatives. Ask your supervisor about getting involved.
- When you meet with your supervisor, you improve that relationship and assert yourself as someone who takes your job and performance seriously. By doing this, you can reap positive job-related benefits.
- Ask to work with someone who inspires you. If there is a person in your workplace who has a good attitude, you can learn to be positive by spending time working alongside that person.
- Ask your supervisor whether he can reassign tasks that you feel undermine your ability to have a positive attitude at work. If possible, alter your responsibilities so they align more with your strengths and occupational goals.
4Redefine your job role. Although your duties might not change, redefine how you think of yourself. Instead of focusing on your title or label, think about what you do well. Redefine how you think about your daily tasks. If you are an administrative assistant and spend much of your time writing emails and answering phone calls, consider yourself as the person who enables businesspeople to connect to one another and complete important transactions. Your job is to be the essential link rather than to do busywork.
- Avoid comparing yourself to others who seem to enjoy the parts of their jobs that you don’t enjoy. Remember, it is likely that your coworkers dislike parts of their jobs that you enjoy
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