NMRT January Discussion: Overcoming Negativity in the Workplace

Hello all! My name is Elayna Turner and I’m providing an update and summary of our January discussion which was hosted on the NMRT-L listserv. Thanks to everyone who was able to participate!

January’s topic was about overcoming negativity in the workplace. This topic focused on sharing experiences of negativity in the workplace and suggestions on how to deal with it. The type of negativity could have been anything from a negative coworker to the difficult supervisor to the culture of the workplace itself. Anyone who has worked in an environment that had a negative culture or coworker/supervisor knows how draining it can be on your own emotions and drive at work. Sometimes the stress from the situation can be so bad that it carries over into your personal life.

Quite a few stories were shared on the listserv along with some advice given for coping with that kind of environment. The stories ranged from someone who worked in a “siloed library” where departments rarely interacted and miscommunications and misinterpretations abounded to another who worked in an environment with a difficult supervisor that caused a group of staff to form a sort of “support group” of coworkers to cope.

Whatever your experience, there are ways to deal with these kinds of situations. While not all of the advice given may work for each person and situation, the suggestions given are great places to start to turn that negativity around.

  • When someone is excessively negative, ask them what they are going to do about what’s making them feel negative. Hold them accountable for their words.
  • When dealing with departmental divides, try reaching out to others by greeting them, sharing information about your work that might affect them, and work to build positive, productive interactions.
  • Realize that there is only so much you can do with people who don’t want to contribute and don’t let it get to yourself.
  • Treat everyone fairly and remember that you are all on the same team.
    If someone won’t relent on their negativity, ignore their comments and don’t feed into it.

The above advice is excellent to get started with and I can say I have used some of those strategies myself to much success. A last piece of advice I’d like to impart as a closing for this discussion is knowing when to leave. If you simply cannot bear the negativity and you feel you’ve done all you can to try and move past it, but you can’t, then it is probably time to move on to another job. Change can be hard, but if it gets you into a more positive work environment where you can flourish, then it is completely worth it.

Negativity can be a real drain on you and your work, but as illustrated during this month’s discussion, there are ways to overcome it. Hopefully the strategies presented in this discussion will be able to help some of you during the course of your careers!

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