Being a Positive Employee (Positive Work Series)

Last time, we discussed your workspace and how to make it a positive, welcoming place for you to operate in regardless of what type of work you do. Now it's time to focus on the person at the desk: the employee. Don't worry, we'll talk about employers in another post.

Being a positive employee is tough. Especially when times are hard. Whether it be due to internal conflicts, power struggles, economic strain or any other factor, negative circumstances can affect your performance and your general outlook on life.

Most of us that are employees of one kind or another can feel the strain of a frustrating a work environment. Keeping the following things in mind will help as you strive to be a more positive employee and improve your work performance as a result.

1. Don't Take Things Personally

This is rule #1 when it comes to working with others. When someone criticizes your work, especially when they are trying to be helpful, understand that they aren't criticizing YOU. Everyone with a strong work ethic wants things to go extremely well. Assume the best in these circumstances and take every opportunity to grow as an employee in these situations.

2. Try to See the Other Side

Let's face it. Everyone has bad days. Whenever I'm confronted with a negative co-worker I have to think that I don't always know what's going on in their personal life. I always think of my good friend Tonya on days like that.

She and I were going to the gym and as we were getting out of my car, the wind caught her door and it hit the car next to us. The woman who owned the car was sitting in it as she got out of her car, she asked my friend "Did the wind catch it or were you just being stupid?" I was stunned. But my friend, in a very calm voice said, "I'm so sorry. It was the wind. I'll pay for any damages." The woman stormed off (there was no damage) and I asked my friend how she could be calm. She said "Angela, I have no idea what she's going through. Maybe she just got some horrible news or she's in terrible pain. I'm just going to pray for her and not let her upset me."

To this day, all I can think is WOW whenever I remember that incident. I have a lot of growing to do.

3. Look for What you Can Give Rather than What you Can Get

It's the line that President Kennedy will always be remembered for. "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Same principle applies here. Instead of just worrying about what you are or are not getting from your company, focus on what you can give. Taking your mind off of yourself is a sure-fire way to lift your spirits. Focusing on the task at hand, ways to improve efficiency (either as an individual or as a group) and helping out others when you can will always make you feel better. Trust me. I know this for a fact.

4. Decide What you Really Want

Many people are frustrated in their working situations because they have no clear goals in mind. They have no idea where they want to go much less how to get there. Outlining both short-term and long-term goals will help you focus on progress and give you something to work for. Make your goals measurable (and realistic) so that you can mark milestones as you go.

5. Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated

This is something we all know, but many of us don't practice. It's the Golden Rule, right? We've all known it since kindergarten and maybe earlier. Many people tend to have a "get them before they get you" kind of mentality when it comes to the workplace. It's true that many people cannot be trusted and many play political games. But if you focus on how you are treating other people, the rewards will find you. Whether it just be through a more positive (and more peaceful) attitude or something similar, you'll certainly be much happier at work than if you don't practice this principle.

6. Have a Stress Reliever

I'm a stress junky. I admit it. As soon as life seems to get too calm, I tend to take on more responsibilities or brainstorm new ideas. It never fails. But I've also learned how to combat stress. I don't want to take that stress out on my family or the people I work with. That's not fair since I bring it on myself. So what do I do? I have a stress reliever. This can be in whatever form you need it to be. Some options include:

  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Fun with friends
  • Funny movies

Do whatever works for you but certainly do something. You'll thank yourself as not only your attitude improves, but your mental health (and emotional health) as well.

7. Eat Well While at Work

For a long time while I was working in a particular office I had Pop-Tarts for breakfast at my desk. Every day. It suddenly dawned on me why I wasn't feeling the greatest come 10 or 11 in the morning. Lunches were often no better. Fast food, pizza and other greasy meals were filling my lunch hour and I was completely drained by 2 in the afternoon. Pack a healthy lunch (and/or breakfast if you need to) and you'll feel better throughout the day. Plus you'll save some money. Watch how much coffee and pop you drink throughout the day. Caffeine overload can leave you feeling jittery and cranky. I'm a common offender of this one.

8. Be a Team Player

This goes back to #3 and #5, but it's still worth highlighting. When a group of people have a "we" mentality, they tend to work better. It's evident in sports isn't it? When one player is causing drama in the media, the team suffers. It's called a "distraction." The same thing can happen in the work place. Focusing on the team's welfare rather than just your own will always prove to the more beneficial route to take in the long run.

9. Stay Organized

We talked about this last time. Having an organized workspace allows you to be more productive. But being organized in everything else is important too. Keeping your deadlines straight and your schedule organized is another extremely beneficial thing to do. I feel tremendous stress if I miss a deadline or have to postpone something because I have not been exercising good time management skills. It happens to the best of us. But make sure you clarify times and dates of meetings, deadlines and other items that you need to keep track of.

10. Unplug

Knowing when to unplug is a good thing. I try and take one full day a week where I am not at my laptop at all. I made a decision that I didn't want to live from my laptop, but let my laptop tell you about my life. I can't do that if I'm on the laptop all the time. Plus, my brain needs time to rest and decompress from the busy everyday activities of work. It's also a good time to do that stress reliever that we talked about in #6.

11. Bonus: Know When to Leave

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can't make a job work in a way that benefits everyone. But on the other hand, I've seen lots of people leave jobs before giving tips like this a shot. Knowing when you are leaving for reasons rather than excuses is a rare skill. Make sure you are operating logically rather than emotionally with decisions like this. It's never a good idea to leave a place on bad terms because you are just taking that negativity with you into the next place. Make sure you have checked your motives, you've gone through this list, and you've exhausted every possible solution before you go.