Workplace Culture

Look on the Bright Side: Staying Positive at Work

August 20, 2020

Staying positive at work can seem impossible some days. Here is how you can look on the bright side, regardless of what life throws at you.

Image of two buildings and a blue sky, with one building dark and the other light, representing a positive attitude.

Monday began without a Wi-Fi connection on my computer for the first few hours. Then, I kept the fun times rolling with a spill down the stairs.  No, I didn’t spill my coffee, because I hadn’t actually had any yet, even though it was already 9:00 a.m.  Rather, I fell because I was looking at my phone to see if I had enough battery life to get on my next call, and still get a cup of coffee.  I also happened to be holding my laptop, which cut my lip when I hit the floor.  After a few snaps, my computer was back in one piece, but no luck with the Wi-Fi.  My lip stung, but it didn’t require plastic surgery.  My knee, on the other hand, needed ice, and I couldn’t bend it past 90 degrees.  After all that, staying positive at work on Monday was quite the challenge.

A positive attitude may not always seem within grasp, especially on the really tough days.  However, you can control your attitude more than you think.  Read on to gain some perspective.  Hopefully these little tidbits will remind you that staying positive at work will only make your day look more promising.

Life is 10% What Happens to You

I’m sure you’ve had one of those fall-down-the-stairs days.  Maybe you didn’t physically fall the way I did, but you’ve had days where things just weren’t going your way.  When they say “stuff” happens, well, “stuff” happened on that day.  Consequently, your positive attitude happened to get up and walk out the door.

It’s easy to want to call it a day–and maybe even not return from lunch–on days when “stuff” happens. However, it’s pretty tough to walk out on work when you are working from your home because of the pandemic. Whether you are working from home or reporting to a job site, when “stuff” happens, staying positive at work can be a challenge.

Photo of a Barbie who is having a hard time staying positive at work after falling down the stairs.

Now, here’s the nugget of perspective:  “stuff” happens to everyone.  No one is exempt from “stuff.”  It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor or young or old.  “Stuff” happens.  So, the first thing you need to do is realize you are not alone.  Someone wise once told me this: “We are all either going into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of a storm.”  Keeping that in mind, ask yourself where you are at this moment.  Are you in the middle of a storm?  Well, the good news is that you will emerge from it.

Life is 90% How You React to It

Now, the question is, how will you emerge from the storm you are in?  This is where you get to decide what you will grab when you reach into your emotional toolbox.  Will you grab the closest thing to you at the moment, which is a beat-up, negative attitude?  Or, will you dig deep and find that can-do, positive attitude?

Since staying positive at work was a necessity to get through that disastrous Monday, I got up and got back to work.  Why?  Because none of my injuries prevented me from doing my job.  Sure, I had a bruised ego and a banged up knee.  My lip had looked better on Zoom calls than it did that day.  Still, neither my knee nor my lip stood in the way of the essential duties of my job.

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My ego, on the other hand, did need a little finessing.  This is the next nugget of perspective:  life is 90% how you react to the “stuff” that happens to you.  After I hit the floor and realized what had just occurred, I let myself lie there for a second.  I was in pain, but mostly embarrassed.  Also, I had made not one, but a series of stupid mistakes.  It turns out, I was that person who was multitasking on my phone and fell down a flight of stairs.  Hadn’t I shook my head a thousand times watching videos of people doing just that?  Furthermore, my husband and daughter witnessed the whole thing, so what kind of example had I set?  Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to give up on the rest of the day, just because it started off badly.  I had the power to change the trajectory of my day.

Photo of a Barbie having a good attitude, despite the rough start to her day.

Own it

In that moment, lying on the floor and deciding to dig deep to find my positive attitude, I knew I had to own what had happened.  It was 100% my fault.  There weren’t any toys on the stairs that I tripped over, nor did I slip on a random article of clothing.  This situation I was in was all me.  So, I just accepted that fact.  I could have gotten up and gone on a rant about how I would not have fallen if we had a one-story house, or a better Wi-Fi connection, or if the universe liked me better.  Instead, I smacked myself on the forehead and said, “Duh.  I should have known better.”  Then I made a note to myself not to make that same mistake twice, and to point out the dangers of walking while looking at my phone to my daughter.

Sabotaging Your Positive Attitude

Ok, so let’s identify some of the things that can happen in the workplace that could keep you from staying positive at work. Your positive attitude might tank if you:

  1. arrive late.
  2. spill your coffee on yourself, your desk, or your computer (or on everything).
  3. miss a scheduled meeting.
  4. reply all instead of to one individual.
  5. send the wrong quote to a client.
  6. send the wrong product to a client.

Are you starting to see all the things that could go wrong during the day, keeping you from having a positive attitude?  I could literally write all day, and the mistakes become more complex, depending on the line of business you are in. 

Photo of two Barbies supporting one another, and encouraging staying positive at work.

Gaining Control of Your Positive Attitude

Now, let’s identify how you can handle these situations in a positive way.  In other words, take control of your attitude, and the rest of your day will follow. Before you begin implementing these responses, take a deep, cleansing breath.

  1. Send you boss an email acknowledging your late arrival, and then assure him/her you will do your best to prevent that from happening again in the future.
  2. Wipe up your desk, pat your clothes dry, and make a note to look up a way to get the stain out while you are on your lunch break.
  3. Email the attendees, apologizing for the oversight, and ask for the minutes of the meeting.  Read the minutes, then email people individually for follow-up details.
  4. If you made an off-color comment, own it, and assure people you will use better judgement next time.
  5. Ask your boss if you can honor the quote you sent in error.  If not, explain to the client that you made a mistake, then offer a product or service to sweeten the pot.
  6. Apologize for the error.  If you must bring the product back, arrange and pay for the logistics.  Ship the correct product to the client at no charge.
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The most important takeaway here is that you should avoid blaming others for things that happened.  There is nothing to be gained by pointing fingers.  Staying positive at work is largely about maintaining good relationships.  Additionally, try not to spend too much time beating yourself up.  Everyone makes mistakes, and the people who seem perfect have probably just figured out the most efficient ways of cleaning up messes. Also, remember to extend grace to people who make mistakes, as you would want others to extend you grace in your low moments.

Staying Positive at Work with Anecdotes

In summary, a positive attitude depends heavily on anecdotes.  This means we rely on knowing what others have gone through in order to know we, too, will get through the hard times.  So, if my little anecdote isn’t enough to keep you looking on the bright side, try asking a fellow associate about his worst error.  Then find out the resolution.  It’s likely the situation was resolved more swiftly and with less drama than that person would have thought at the time.  Furthermore, you’ll probably have a good laugh and feel relieved that it happened to him and not you!

Finally, know that you are an important component of each workday.  Your coworkers and clients rely on you to do your part.  If you are staying positive at work, then you are bringing your best self to your job.

Photo of two Barbies standing together, and smiling.

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