How to deal with a negative environment?

Experienced an unexpected drop in productivity? You’re likely being influenced by a negative environment at work! Learn how to deal with a negative work environment.

We now live in VUCA world, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. And this is on top of the uncertainties that you must deal with in your research project. 

With most of you still working from home, it’s more likely that you feel more anxious and frustrated. You may experience these negative feelings in particular if you don’t have enough support from your project team or the communication is poor. 

There’s also a likelihood that the lines between your life and work will become blurred. It’s really tempting to answer this last email at 2am and work through the night to finish your paper, isn’t it? 

Does this sound familiar?

If you felt like this for a long time, you may be surrounded by a negative environment at work. 

All this negativity may seriously influence your productivity and, more importantly, your wellbeing. You may also feel that your work has no meaning and won’t have any impact.

White male with grey hair devastated by negative environment at work, thinking how to deal with negative work environment to maximise his productivity
Dealing with a negative environment at work can challenging! But it’s definitely worth to fight for a better work environment that’ll enable you to thrive and achieve sustainable productivity! (Photo: © Motivated Academic)

Therefore, you can’t allow such feelings to accumulate. You should really talk about this challenge with your research team, especially when you are a PhD student or a postdoctoral researcher. 

Such negativity needs to be handled immediately to help you build a productive and positive work environment. 

Before the lockdown in the UK in 2020, my priority was to ensure that efficient communication channels were in place within my team. In our discussions, I mostly focused on their wellbeing and checked if they have everything they need. This helped us to go through this change pretty smoothly and maintain a positive work environment.

Want to know how to deal with a negative environment at work or even how you can change it? 

Focus on self-development

The very first thing you need to do to deal with a negative environment at work is to recognise when you’re working in one. 

This may seem strange. 

Yet, sometimes you may feel that something is off. Or maybe you noticed that your productivity is hindered and you do not know where this is coming from. 

Hand flipping wooden cubes for change wording between don’t to do it.Mindset for career growth business.

According to Anthony Tjan, who is CEO of venture capital firm Cue Ball and recognised author in entrepreneurship and business, these are the best ways to become more self aware: 

– learn to meditate and reflect

– write down your key plans and priorities

– take psychometric tests (i.e. Mayers-Briggs test)

– ask your trusted friends for feedback

– get regular feedback at work

Focusing on your self-development will enhance your skills. It will also help you develop your career in a more aware manner and lead the change in your work environment. 

Don’t spread negativity 

One of the best ways to stop negativity from spreading in your environment is to act as a negativity gatekeeper and stop passing it further. 

You may be surrounded by gossips or people complaining all the time about their work. 

What I mean here is that you may subconsciously pass these pieces of negativity to your colleagues or even your family.

Remember, just like you may not want to hear about all this negative information in your workplace, your colleagues and family may not want to hear about it all the time too. 

In my previous article, I mentioned that an academic career is an art of dealing with uncertainty and rejection. Therefore, believe me, there’s lots to complain about. You can especially hear about it in social media! I do believe, however, that being an academic is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Read more about my reasons for this here

Make sure that you have a support system that gives you a safe space to openly talk about your challenges and issues. However, complaining shouldn’t be the main point of such a support group. Instead, it should lead to constructive and actionable reflections that’ll help you deal with these issues.

Ryan Biddulph, from The Personal Growth Channel, says that you should also learn to tell people the truth, regardless of how uncomfortable this may be. If you feel that someone complains too much and spreads too much negativity, let them know. 

Although they may not be happy about this at first, they may not be aware that their behaviour contributes to the negative environment at work. 

Your honesty, which may not be easy at first, may open their eyes to the truth and may contribute to making your work environment a better place.

Develop a positive mindset

Once you stop passing the negativity further, you need to commit yourself to be positive and enjoy your life. 

The fact that you may work in a negative environment does not mean that you must be miserable. It’s not easy, but there’re some tools available that can make it easier. 

Try not to focus on the issue itself, but on what can you take away from it. 

Ask yourself what lessons you can learn and what can you do to resolve this particular challenge. 

Such a mindset will enable you to focus on your personal and professional growth. 

You can change the negative work environment into a positive work environment
By developing a positive mindset, you can change the negative environment at work into a positive work environment. Be the catalyst for change!

It’s also important to celebrate even the little things in your life, especially successes; however small they can be. 

When we were on our daily walk with Magda earlier today and discussed this article, she mentioned that it’s a good idea to keep a success jar or a success notebook. 

In short, you can write down brief notes about your successes and put them in the jar (or notebook). You may also use such notes to express what you are grateful for. 

Once you’re down or feeling more negative than usual, you may always come back to these notes to cheer yourself up! 

You can deal with negativity and negative work environment if you want to!
A positive mindset will enable you to deal with impossible and thrive regardless the negative environment at work.

If you find it difficult to find the positives about your work at the moment, it may be a good idea to come up with a personal project. According to Lynn Abhulimen from InspireMe, such a project can free you from your day-to-day worries. 

It can be an energising break where you can use your creativity to develop an exciting idea on your own. Such a project can give a boost to your morale, confidence and, subsequently, give you something to be proud and happy about. 

Finally, to develop a positive mindset, it’s important to surround yourself with positive people. 

Jim Rohm, who is a motivational speaker, said that you are the average of five people you spend most time with

The math here is simple, if you spend most of your time with positive people, you’ll be positive too! 

Of course, it’s not possible to be positive 100% of the time, as in the case of being highly motivated all the time. However, the more you practice, the more positive you will become. As a result, you’ll spread positivity, rather than negativity in your work environment and you’ll become an inspiration for others to do the same.

Stay connected, but consider tuning out for a while

As I mentioned at the very beginning of this article, staying connected is key to developing a positive environment. 

However, such communication shouldn’t be used to complain and spread negativity! 

If you tried the ideas to deal with the negative environment at work I mentioned above, but these haven’t helped, don’t get discouraged. 

Person walking away to reflect on the negative environment at work and ti find solutions.
Sometimes it is a good idea to step back, reflect and come up with ideas to beat the negative environment at work.

It may be a good idea though to tune out for a while and take a break from the surrounding negativity. 

This will give you space to gain strength and accumulate positive thoughts that’ll keep you motivated to change things for the better.

Please don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate effects or increase in productivity. Each member of your research team may have a different level of self-awareness or may perceive the current situation in a different way. 

Some may not be influenced by the negativity at work all, some may thrive in it, and some may even get depressed. 

A final word…

A positive work environment is worth fighting for! It makes you feel more appreciated and happier in your life.

To fight a negative environment at work, start from yourself. 

Ask yourself whether your environment supports your development and productivity. 

If not, focus on self-development, do not spread negativity, and develop a positive mindset!

Equipped with a vast load of positivity, you can be the catalyst for change in your work environment!

How do you deal with the negative environment at work?

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Academic Coach at Motivated Academic, senior lecturer at Cranfield University, UK.

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