Annie Lawler of Breathing Space for Business explains how to instil positivity in the workplace by training the mind.
Members of staff who are constantly complaining and being negative not only have a detrimental effect on themselves, but also on their colleagues. It’s a drain on those around them and on your business. However, it doesn’t help just to get on the bandwagon and complain about them. Like most things, to bring about changes, positive action needs to be taken.
Central to reducing stress and to producing the right kind of results is the development of a positive attitude.
Deliberately choosing to steer the mind in a positive direction helps in all kinds of situations including goal setting, recruitment, career progression and general contentment with life. But what causes periods of negative thinking that find us spiralling into a dark frame of mind?
Well, of course, there is no single answer. Each of us responds differently to similar sets of circumstances. Therefore, it’s important in the first instance to find out what is behind this negative behaviour. It could be a negative member of staff is unhappy for a variety of reasons – either connected with work or not. They may also be totally unaware of the way in which they are coming across and how they are affecting their colleagues.
Therefore, a brief interview to discuss the situation in a compassionate way is advisable as a first step. There may be actions which can be taken easily and quickly to improve the situation. If not, then you may wish to consider using a counsellor or coach to work with your member of staff to explore the situation further.
In my case, whether coaching/counselling on a one-to-one basis or working in a seminar situation, one of the key areas I work with to reverse these negative attitudes is training in developing a positive mindset and I’ll share a few tips with you here which may be useful when dealing with negative members of staff. If you feel sceptical about them to begin with, just try it for a month and log what happens with your thoughts, language, attitude, actions and results.
The problem often lies in the fact that many of us are not aware of the negative influences around us and therefore find it difficult to know what to do to haul ourselves out of the mire of a negative spiral and into a more positive frame of mind.
The mind is incredibly powerful and our thoughts and beliefs influence our words and actions either positively or negatively. If we’re aware of the influences and conditioning that affect our behaviour, we can take positive action to reverse negative trends.
Naturally, we all have certain periods in our lives which are challenging and provide us with some serious hurdles to overcome. This is the nature of life. And, some people's genetic make-up makes them more susceptible to periods of anxiety than others. It’s also true that a lot of our 'conditioning' or learned behaviour as children and from those in authority throughout our lives can affect how we feel and how we respond to situations.
Add to that the many external influences which affect our moods and create anxious states, such as TV programmes, news reports in papers, periodicals and on TV, films, video games and so on and you can start to see what we have to contend with every day of our lives.
Do these really affect our moods and behaviour? Well the short answer is a resounding ‘yes’ and that’s why marketers, politicians et al spend so much money and time on advertising and PR campaigns. Repetition of messages and images start to infiltrate our subconscious (and sometimes conscious) thoughts and behaviour and there’s lots of research and books which confirm this school of thought.
Of course, there are a lot of very positive things to read and be entertained by, but there is a lot of news reporting, for example, which is very negative and helps create feelings of anxiety and fear. A terrific amount of material contained in these and in entertainments is violent, negative and generally unpleasant. It’s this kind of thing that contributes to black moods and depression and to which we lose our individual power and positivity.
When speaking to negative members of your team, the point is not to advise them to cut these out completely. A lot of people get a great thrill from some of these forms of entertainment. However limiting your exposure to negative people and things and choosing to focus deliberately on what is good and positive in life is advisable. It's a conscious decision to ‘re-programme’ the mind to think positively and reverse the tendency towards negative feelings.
Once this is mastered, it is much easier to enjoy life and to tackle any challenges more effectively. You’ll also be much more fun to be around!
Positive thinking also has some very practical uses. For example, one of the best bits of advice I think I ever had on recruiting, was to recruit on attitude not on qualifications. If you have somebody with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for their work, you are far more likely to find that person will do a good job, will be motivated and will learn quickly. This is a piece of advice I have acted on in numerous situations and it hasn’t let me down yet!
Positive thinking also helps to achieve goals. Making clear statements of what you want to achieve, writing them down, visualising them and feeling the positive emotion behind them is an incredibly effective method of getting the results you want. It’s a technique used in many situations including business, athletics and sports and life in general and it’s one of the keys to the difference between success and perceived failure.
There are numerous techniques which can be used in developing a positive mental attitude and I can only touch on them in this short article, but here’s your starter for ten which you may find useful when dealing with negative team members!
1. Practice being grateful. Spend about five-10 minutes at the start of every day thinking about what is good and positive in your life at the moment. It's amazing how many things we simply take for granted that we can be happy and grateful for. It starts to set the scene for the mind to think more positively and the results which follow are also likely to be more positive as we tend to attract to ourselves more of what we put out!
2. Limit exposure to negative movies, TV, reading and people. When people find themselves feeling anxious, upset or angry they can deliberately choose to watch or read something funny and upbeat or to meet someone who they know makes them feel good.
3. Be aware of thoughts and language. Start to pay attention to how you speak about yourself and the situations around you and try to halt any negative language or thoughts and practice saying or thinking it more positively.
It’s important to be particularly careful with this when setting goals. Avoid aims which start with words such as ‘I want to stop…’ or ‘I don’t want…’ Putting aims and ambitions into positive language means they are far more likely to come to fruition, because you are stating what you want to happen rather than what you don’t want to happen. Think about it. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
4. There are also numerous breathing techniques, visualisations and meditations (or daydreams) which help promote feelings of positivity.
5. Music can be an excellent method of encouraging a positive mindset. Ask negative members of staff to record a mix of their favourite uplifting and happy tracks to play on the journey to and from work or at other convenient times of the day.
6. Find out what they love to do and get them to prioritise it and do more of it.
None of us can change what has already happened or what happens in the future, because the time has either passed or we haven't got there yet. So, concentrating on the here and now and looking at what is good today is advisable.
Of course this is only scratching the surface of this enormous subject which can make such a difference in how we approach life, but I hope it gives you a taste of what can be done to develop a more positive workforce. Further help on creating a more effective, positive and happy team who produce positive results can be obtained from Annie Lawler on [email protected] or on T:0772 581 8884.