The Way I See It ... Positive Attitude Training |

The Way I See It ... Positive Attitude Training

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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 or on T:0772 581 8884.



I found this to be a thought provoking and helpful article that is practical in the face of an issue we all meet at least occasionally.
May I offer one final point as No 7?

7. If you can't find anything you like about this job/role/employer then polish up your CV and'll be happier, your family will be happier and the people you used to work with will be happier.
If you wanted to sloganise it "Don't get grumpy, get going"

I agree 100% with Rus' comments about having choices.
Work must be enjoyable, fulfilling and emotionally rewarding. We all spend so much time and creativity within work, that it is criminal if we do not enjoy it - if you don;t enjoy your job, quit and do something else instead, you have choices!
Also, something I coach and develop with people is for them to not compromise their personal values for the sake of work. If there is a values mismatch either help to change the company positively of leave.
We all have choices, so stop the moaning and positively challenge or leave.
Great discussion topic!!

Of course there may be negative aspects about the working environment, or the person may be stressed if they can't handle the work (for many reasons)and I think the author probably covered that in the one to one session and i also imagine she was talking about those people who have a negative disposition. We can all choose our response to circumstances - some people tend to "grin and bear it" and at other end of scale there are people who will inevitably see "the cup as half empty", whatever the circumstances. One of the things I am researching just now is whether our thinking preferences can impact or predict our likely mental attitudes. This is helpful when we or our coaches want to focus on developing mental strengths and have info on most likely barriers we will erect between us and our best possible performance (at work, in sport, in life)

I like to listen to the stories being told by staff as they meet and gret each morning. It is amazing how the mood of the office changes to reflect that of the storyteller. As a result of one particularly dark episode, one of the staff sent this to the whole work unit as an email - the impact was immediate and positive.

"I am thankful:

For my wife
Who says it's hot dogs tonight,
Because she is home with me
And not out with someone else.

For my husband
Who is on the sofa
Being a couch potato,
Because he is home with me
And not out at the bars.

For my teenager
Who is complaining about doing dishes
Because it means she is at home,
Not on the streets.

For the taxes I pay
Because it means
I am employed.

For the mess to clean after a party
Because it means I have
Been surrounded by friends.

For the clothes that fit a little too snug
Because it means
I have enough to eat.

For my shadow that watches me work
Because it means
I am out in the sunshine

For a lawn that needs mowing,
Windows that need cleaning,
And gutters that need fixing
Because it means I have a home.

For all the complaining
I hear about the government
Because it means
We have freedom of speech.

For the parking spot
I find at the far end of the parking lot
Because it means I am capable of walking
And I have been blessed with transportation.

For my huge heating bill
Because it means
I am warm.

For the lady behind me in church
Who sings off key because it means
I can hear.

For the pile of laundry and ironing
Because it means
I have clothes to wear.

For weariness and aching muscles
At the end of the day
Because it means I have been
Capable of working hard.

For the alarm that goes off
In the early morning hours
Because it means I am alive.

And finally, for too much e- mail
Because it means I have
Friends who are thinking of me.

Live well, laugh often, & love with all of your heart"

peterahunter's picture

Our attitude is the result of the way we react to things and most people have a naturaly positive attitude.

Watch the same person that you brand at work as having a negative attitude and you will find that in the evening and at weekends they exhibit an astonishingly positive attitude about what they get involved in.

The negative attitude that they display at work is a result of the treatment they receive.

What happens to them at work defines the attitude that they adopt.

Instead of blaming the individual for their attitude I suggest that it is more productive to find out what is happening to cause their bad attitude, then work towards solving the problem, not trying to change the way they feel about what is for them an unacceptable situation.

If you have a broken leg do you learn strategies to deal with it, or do you go to a hospital and get the problem fixed.


bensimo's picture

The "but" is only related to managerial personnel.

Having a positive attitude must be a condition of employment for management employees. For them to demonstrate other than a very positive attitude is quite destructive of all employees who come in contact with them and most especially their subordinates.

But in truth, management personnel do become as they are treated so it all comes back to what Peter has already said.

Best regards, Ben
Author "Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed"

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