Negativity is a particularly fitting topic for current climes. As the world struggles to deal with a  pandemic on an unprecedented scale, citizens in many countries are experiencing uncertainty and fear. But coping with the coronavirus also presents an opportunity for people to come together and focus on some of the stories of hope that often follow disaster. 

In the weeks and months ahead, there is a mountain to climb, so in this article we seek advice from BOOST&Co’s organisational psychologist, Heather Bingham, on how to arm ourselves against the mindset that can undermine the most meticulously planned approach: negativity.

Culture Club so far…

In our Culture Club series, Bingham has explained what defines company culture; why it is important; and how to establish a good organisational culture. She has also explored a number of BOOST&Co’s cultural tenets, sharing characteristics of the culture that benefit the lender and its employees alike. Later in the series, we will explore how to change a culture that isn’t working, but for now, Bingham turns her focus to negativity and its impact on work and personal lives, as well as offering some handy tips to help keep it at bay.

Negative by nature

As Brits, negativity is arguably in our nature, whether it’s bemoaning our miserable weather, grumbling about finding the “least worst” solution or, more recently, criticising those who stockpile toilet roll as we pack away our own unnecessary hoards of supplies. On the whole, the UK is not a nation that glows with positivity.

Equally British is our “take it on the chin and get on with it” approach. Many of us have become masters of “gallows humour”, and if the memes that have popped up online in the past few days are anything to go by, when the going gets tough, the Brits get laughing. But negativity can be a real problem, especially in the workplace, and even more so in the midst of a crisis.

Although feelings of negativity in the workplace vary across region and industry, 38% of UK workers admit that a bad day at work affects their personal lives. So when it comes to addressing  the UK’s current productivity crisis, and improving the mental health and happiness of our population, tackling workplace negativity must be a good place to start. 

Trapped in the dark side

The negativity cycle 

If you’ve ever had the misfortune to work alongside a particularly negative person – and let’s be honest, most of us have – you will know all too well the detrimental effects that this negativity can have on the rest of a team, an office or even a whole company. 

Negativity is contagious and, as the negativity cycle demonstrates, it can be difficult to dismiss. “This cycle purposefully has no beginning or end, and shows the damage that is done, the wasted spent emotion and the reduced capacity to produce,” Bingham says. “When in the throes of negativity, that will become your culture, with little room for anything else.”

What’s more, once negativity has conquered your work life, it is prone to invade your personal life too.

How to arm yourself against negativity:

What if I’m the source of negativity?

“In this scenario, you need to be honest with yourself,” Bingham says. “Can you change your current situation, or do you need to swap to something new? If you allow yourself to be dragged into the depths of negativity, you may find yourself trapped in your situation, unable to change things and unable to sell yourself to others.”

This advice is particularly instructive given the unprecedented situation in which people in the UK – and countries across the world – now find themselves. During the coming weeks, many of us may experience negative situations that are difficult to escape. Whether you’re struggling with self-isolation, working from home for the first time or feeling overburdened with work as you compensate for absent colleagues, there are still plenty of small changes – many of which are listed above – that can be made to stop negativity in its tracks. 

Some final words of wisdom from Bingham: “Never let yourself become consumed by negativity; when things aren’t going great, keep your eyes firmly on the future,” she says. 

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