How to Keep a Positive Attitude in the Workplace
What do you think is the number one factor that determines your success in any job?
Your technical skills? The number of hours you clock in each week? Your ambition, focus, or problem-solving abilities?
While these things do count, they’re peanuts compared to what truly matters. As someone who’s worked in human resources for the past 6 years, I can tell you if there’s one thing that can make or break your professional journey in a company, it would be your attitude.
When it comes to thriving in the workplace, having a positive attitude is a must.
- 1. Why You Need to Have a Positive Attitude at Work
- 2. How Can You Develop (And Keep) a Positive Attitude at Work?
Why You Need to Have a Positive Attitude at Work
Why is a positive attitude important in the workplace?
Because you can’t go anywhere without it.
I’ve seen “attitude” play a key role in countless organizational decisions related to hiring, promotion, and termination. And from everything I’ve seen in my work, this is the conclusion I’ve drawn about the power of attitude:
You may be a genius, or the best salesperson in the company. You may have incredible skills and knowledge that would take years to train. But at the end of the day, if your attitude sucks, you won’t go far.
I’m not kidding when I say attitude is everything.
People who demonstrate a positive outlook and a cheerful disposition have better relationships with their peers and managers, are seen as more productive, and are offered more opportunities for advancement.
They may not be the best in what they do, but their energy is contagious. And that’s more important than ever.
Employers are beating their heads trying to create a more engaging and positive work environment. They understand the impact positivity can have on productivity, teamwork, and retention. And they LOVE people who can help create that positive environment.
Employers are hungry for positive people, and it’s not going to change any time soon. In fact, “having a positive attitude” has become one of the top 10 qualities employers look for in potential employees. I can tell you it’s certainly one of the key traits I look for when I interview candidates at my company.
The bottom line? Having a positive attitude will make you popular with your boss, coworkers, and clients. It will open many doors for you.
Still not convinced? Here are a few other benefits of having a positive attitude at work:
- Research shows that when you’re happy, you’re 20% more productive.
- If you’re in sales, there’s even more incentive to have a positive attitude. It’ll help increase sales by 37%.
- A positive attitude promotes collaboration. I don’t know any job that doesn’t require working with coworkers, clients, or both. Unless you live and work in a bubble, you need to collaborate with others.
- A positive outlook not only benefits your health, it can also help improve the health and wellness of others around you.
I feel so passionate about this topic that I created a 30-day challenge to help you feel happier at work.
How Can You Develop (And Keep) a Positive Attitude at Work?
When you start out a new job, you feel energized and happy. You’re eager to dive into new tasks and give all you’ve got. And you say “hello” with a big (and sometimes creepy) grin to everyone you meet in the hallway. Yep, your enthusiasm is off the charts.
But over time, that feeling begins to wear off like the bubbles in a soft drink that’s been left out for too long. Before you know it, you feel empty, bored, or even resentful about work.
You’re not alone. Many people, including myself, struggle with keeping up a positive attitude at work. It’s not as simple as “just be happy”—for most people, it takes proactive work to develop and maintain a positive attitude at work. And that’s okay. With awareness and practice, we all can learn to be more positive at work.
Not sure where to begin? Here are 7 good places to start.
1. Don’t Compare
“There’s always a higher mountain.” —Chinese proverb
Comparison is a never-ending vicious cycle. If you get into the habit of comparing, you’ll always find something else to compare yourself to.
Why did Jane get a higher bonus? Why did Kevin get the bigger cubicle? And why did Janet get a better praise from the boss when I worked just as hard?
Not only is this exhausting, it also creates toxic emotions such as jealousy and resentment.
It’s not easy to stop comparing altogether, I know. So here’s a trick to help you tame that comparison beast inside of you: next time you find yourself comparing, remember that things are not always what they seem on the surface. Perhaps Jane worked really hard and did a stellar job on her last project to deserve that bonus. Maybe Kevin has a medical condition that requires more legroom. And Janet may have gotten a bigger thumbs-up from the boss this time, but you got more recognition on a previous project.
Look for the positives in others and remember that you don’t know everything that goes on in every organizational decision. If something’s really bothering you, then open the dialogue with your manager. Don’t compare and then stew on these negative emotions.
2. Stop Complaining. Do This Instead
Nothing good ever comes out of complaining. It breeds negativity, increases health-damaging stress hormones, and makes you unattractive to others. If those weren’t enough, research shows complaining can make you dumber.
So even if complaining feels as liberating as chowing down a dozen donuts—don’t do it. It’ll only make you feel terrible after.
What should you do when you get that urge to complain then?
I offer you this idea instead:
Next time you want to “vent” about something that happened at work, adopt a problem-solving approach instead. Rather than moaning about things from a “can’t believe this is happening to me” angle, reflect with a “what can I do to make this better” mindset. Not only will this sharpen your problem-solving skills, it’ll make you feel more in control, which will ultimately make you feel happier at work.
3. Learn to say “NO”
You can’t feel very positive at work if you’re feeling the “pull-your-hair-out” kind of stress all the time. And one of the biggest causes of that kind of stress is taking on more than you can handle.
Can you edit this report for me? Sure, glad to help. Can you fill in for me on that 9 a.m. meeting? Okay, you got it. Can you show me for the Nth time how to find this document on our system? No problemo!
Any of these sound familiar?
These requests may seem insignificant, but when you agree to enough of them, they become a huge burden. If you don’t know how to say “no” at work, sooner or later, you’re going to feel the strain. You’re going to feel guilty for not “wanting to help”. And you might feel a little angry that people don’t seem to notice—or care—that you’re overwhelmed.
You’ve become a stress bomb that’s waiting to explode. Positivity? Forget it!
You’re nice and want to help, I get it, but don’t spread yourself so thin. Saying “no” won’t be easy, I know. But in order to keep your sanity and happiness—you have to do it.
Want to know how to say “no” without looking like a jerk?
Here’s what I tell people:
“I want to make sure I can do a good job for you but I have enough on my plate right now that I’m not able to give your task the attention it needs.”
And don’t apologize, don’t dodge their eyes, or look sheepish. You’re not wrong to put your health and wellbeing first!
4. But Also Learn to Say “YES”
Do you have a habit of saying “no” to every assignment that’s not within your “job description”? While it’s a good practice to say “no” to tasks that drain your energy and add no value, sticking too close to your job description could also hinder your engagement and affect your job satisfaction.
Because if you always just stay within your realm of familiar responsibilities, you miss out on vital opportunities to learn new things, master new skills, and accomplish new goals. Your work eventually becomes repetitive and stale. When your job no longer provides enough challenge, your job satisfaction suffers.
It’s important to keep yourself open to new responsibilities that would provide new challenges and learning opportunities. You don’t have to take on new projects all the time, especially if you already have your hands full. But if you have the capacity to accept a new challenge, do it. Saying “yes” to the right opportunities at work will help gain more confidence and feel more positive.
5. Practice Reframing
Want to be more resilient and feel happier at work? Practice reframing.
Reframing is a powerful technique that helps transform negative thought patterns into more productive ones.
When you reframe a situation, you make a conscious and deliberate shift in how you perceive the facts in front of you. The reframed thoughts are—in general—more focused on solutions and opportunities. And this, in turn, creates more positive feelings.
Soon after I first started working in human resources, I began to feel defeated in the workplace.
For one thing, I encountered a lot of push-back from frontline managers. They were all decades older than me with years of supervisory experience. They did not take well to the fact that they had to take advice from a fresh-faced college grad.
What made my work even more challenging was the fact that I didn’t have a team. I was the only person working in human resources in the company. I felt like a pilot-in-training who’s left all alone in a moving plane with no flying manual.
There were times I was so stressed out I wanted to throw in the towel.
But my mother encouraged me to look at things from another perspective. She suggested that instead of looking at the uncooperative managers as a source of frustration, I could look at the situation as an exercise to strengthen my emotional intelligence and sharpen my communication skills. She also reminded me that although not having a team meant I had to work extra hard to find my own way, it gave me greater autonomy, pushed me to grow at an incredible speed, and made any accomplishment feel extra rewarding.
I followed her advice and started to push myself to come up with the alternative side to every negative situation at work. And once I did that enough times, I began to feel less stressed and more optimistic about my job.
So instead of kicking yourself for losing a client to the competition, tell yourself the loss is an opportunity to focus on the clients who are still loyal to your business. Or rather than feeling disappointed about not getting that raise you were waiting for, look at it as a wake-up call that you need to be more assertive in voicing your needs.
Remember, Shakespeare once said: “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. You may not be able to change the objective facts of the situation, but you CAN change how you feel about them by shifting your perspective.
6. Remind Yourself of the Good Things About Your Work
Gratitude can inject a powerful boost of positivity into your day and make you feel happier in the long run. Practicing gratitude at work, therefore, is a great way to buffer yourself against workplace frustrations and make you feel more positive at work.
But what if you don’t feel there’s anything to be grateful for in your job?
Anytime you feel negative emotions at work, take a few minutes to jot down any and every good thing about your work you can think of. It can even be something as simple as how much you like the new coffee machine in the lunchroom. The act of writing down these good things will help make them more concrete in your mind and help you recall them faster next time.
And don’t worry if you can’t think of many good things the first time around. When you learn to look for the positives, it will become easier and easier for you to see them all around you.
7. Mentor somebody
Did you know that being generous makes you feel happier? And one of the best ways to show generosity at work is to mentor somebody. There’s nothing more valuable to a newer or less experienced coworker than the gift of your time and knowledge.
This is also an excellent way to spread positive energy at work. Not only will you feel more fulfilled, the person you’re mentoring will also feel more valued.
Does your company have a mentoring program for its employees? If so, that’s the perfect place to start. Even if there’s no official program available, you can still mentor somebody. And it doesn’t matter if you’re still young or new, people will appreciate you taking the time to share whatever knowledge or experience you have if you show a genuine interest in their success！
Final Word About Keeping a Positive Attitude in the Workplace
Hey, I’m not saying you can’t feel or show any negative emotions at work. I don’t believe in sunshine and rainbows all the time and neither do I promote the idea that we should chase away all negativity.
In fact, it’s normal for anyone to feel frustrated, sad, resentful, jealous, or angry at work from time to time, and we need to accept these emotions as part of life. Like I said in my post where I shared lessons I learned about true happiness—positivity doesn’t mean the absence of negativity. It’s about achieving a balance of the two dualities.
And remember, there’s no job in the world that would make you feel fuzzy and warm every day (or at least I haven’t been in one) so it’s unrealistic to expect we would have a positive attitude all the time. If you have a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad month, that’s okay!
But if you’re feeling miserable and stressed at work most days for a prolonged period of time, it’s time to do something about it.
The way I look at it is you got two options: either change the situation or change how you perceive the situation. If you’ve tried these strategies and still hate your job, maybe it’s time to polish up your resume and look for another job.
Don’t forget to download my “30 Days to Feeling Happier at Work” Challenge before you go. It contains 30 extra ideas to help you generate more positivity at work!