How to Overcome Negativity in the Workplace


Have you ever encountered someone who could just kill your good mood in a flash? Or that one person who never had anything good to say about – well, anything? It’s a sad truth that we will always come across negativity in the workplace.

Negativity in the workplace can manifest itself in many forms. It may be a colleague who loves to moan, gossip or who is a bully. We can’t always avoid it, but it’s important to not let your negative colleagues pull you in because if they do, it can really drain the positivity from you. Feeling positive at work can boost your motivation, productivity and overall satisfaction, even in your personal life, so it really is imperative that you don’t get dragged into a negativity spiral by a co-worker.

Luckily, those who are unable to stay positive are probably few and far between in your workplace. However, their toxic attitudes can have a big effect on you and others around them. No matter how much you wish you could, you just can’t always change how people are. That being said, the power lies with you when it comes to how you choose to react to negative behaviour. The key is knowing how to counteract negativity so that it can’t take hold.

Learning to combat negativity in the workplace is a great skill that you can put to use within both your professional and personal lives. Here are a few great pointers to give you a head start.


There are few things more frustrating than having worries or concerns with no one around to voice them to. That colleague scowling and grumbling away in the corner may just simply need to get things off their chest. Try to talk with them and get them to open up about what’s bothering them, then listen. The essential thing to remember is to not get drawn into a negative topic, so don’t join in, just let them get it out of their system.

Once they’ve let it all out, they may feel so much better, or you may even be able to assist them or give them a positivity boost. Either way, you will probably make their day much more bearable (and hopefully you won’t have to look at a moody face for the rest of yours!).

However, you don’t want to become the resident ear of the office. If a colleague constantly wants to rant and rave to you, then you need to separate yourself from the situation and politely excuse yourself from the conversation (is that your phone ringing?).

Distance yourself

You’re only human, so it’s OK to have a breaking point when it comes to negativity. Instead of letting things go too far, there’s nothing wrong with distancing yourself from your negative co-workers for the sake of your sanity.

A good way of doing this is with physical barriers; we’re not talking riot shields or a moat, but something as simple as popping in your headphones could keep your toxic colleagues out of your head for a while.

When it comes to break times, if you just don’t want to be ‘negged’ out anymore, don’t subject yourself to it. Have lunch outside, go for a wander, make a few personal calls, read a book. There are lots of things you can do to stay away from negative vibes during your down time at work.

If you feel like you’ve really hit your limit or the negativity is starting to spread into your mind, then it’s time to take it to the top. Meet with a superior, whether that’s your superior or that of the colleague in question, for a constructive and diplomatic discussion about your concerns.

Try to bring the positivity back

A great way to combat negativity in the workplace is by staying positive – be a beacon of optimism in the office! Positivity can be just as contagious as negativity, so not only will you be protecting yourself from toxic co-workers, but you will help to make sure that the rest of your colleagues stay upbeat and focused.

If you encounter a negative colleague, try to turn the conversation around to a more light-hearted topic or try to sway them so they only discuss things that are going well with them when they chat with you. It’s not a case of calling them out on their attitude, it’s more a case of conditioning them so they know that you won’t engage with negativity, they’ll soon get the hint!

Surrounding yourself with those co-workers who tend to lift your spirits is a great way of diluting negativity, their influence will easily help you shake off any bad vibes from interactions with those that put a grey cloud over your day. Do you need to speak with a negative colleague? Take someone else along with you, it could totally alter the dynamic and further protect you from the effects of a negative attitude.

All in all, don’t take it personally. If a toxic co-worker is always ready to pick holes in your ideas, put a dampener on your achievements or to be the epitome of pessimism, remember it’s just who they are. Anything they say against you isn’t to be taken to heart. Try to see if there’s anything worth taking on board from what they are trying to convey and if not, shake it off.

What type of toxic colleague do you work with? How do you counteract their bad vibes? Take a look at the following infographic to form your plan of action in combatting negativity in the workplace.

Negativity in the workplace

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