EXCLUSIVE SURVEY RESULTS: Positively Powerful! Women Leaders Talk Workplace Negativity

How do you deal with workplace negativity?

That’s the question we asked women leaders in our recent online survey, and were impressed with how they’ve been able to handle negative situations at work in very positive ways. Many have developed a myriad of strategies for dealing with it on an ongoing basis.

Photograph by Flickr/Stuart Isett

While women leaders find themselves having to deal with negative situations – from not feeling they’re being recognized enough by upper management to being overloaded with work – most conflicts at work have to do with personality conflicts with co-workers.

Unique strategies that turn a negative into a positive

Most women leaders have developed their own unique strategies that have helped to turn things around for them and their team members. Take a look at their very candid responses to our questions below. You’ll find some useful information here that you can implement whenever you find yourself embroiled in any workplace negativity.

What has helped you deal with the workplace negativity on a daily basis?

Since most of the women we surveyed have been dealing with workplace negativity for more than six months, they have developed effective coping methods out of necessity and out of loyalty to their company. Perhaps realizing how detrimental even a negative comment on social media can be to a company, most leaders realize the importance of being focused – and keeping their team focused on the work.

  • 29% Hyper-focusing on work (“Focused on my job, avoiding negativity”)
  • 18% Discussing with mentor/colleagues
  • 13% Working on an action plan (“Collaborating to fix specific issues together to build trust”)
  • 12% Going to the gym/working out

Working it Out: Daily Strategies for Staying Positive

How do you get through the day, when there’s a negative influence afoot? We asked women leaders what smaller strategies help them to stay focused when things get especially tense in the workplace:

  • “I work on self-improvement, behavioral analysis, self-help programs, and leadership and management development.”
  • “I keep a lot of positive inspirational messages on my door before I leave for work.”
  • “Open communication among staff.”
  • “Redirecting conversations to different topics.”
  • “5-minutes breaks, walking around.”
  • “I walk on my lunch hour, when I take one.”
  • “Closing my door for a 2-minute meditation – helps re-center my energy and gives me a fresh, positive outlook.”
  • Managing my own stress – talking to others, leaving the issues behind when I go home, relaxation techniques like deep breathing and music, spending time with my pet.”
  • “A range of strategies, including discussing with colleagues and coach, working on an action plan, raising awareness, working on self-improvement, doing research on leadership and management, working externally on different projects.”
  • “Prayer.” 

What have you done to handle workplace negativity in a positive way?

An overwhelming number of women leaders recognize their role within a negative environment: To be a positive influence day in, day out, perhaps realizing that negativity is like a disease – best to stomp it out with positivity before it spreads among the team. So they make a conscious effort to combat the negativity.

  • 59% Had discussions with upper management (“Requested a conflict coach to assist me with dealing with the employee involved”)
  • 44% Channeled the negativity into a positive (“Worked hard on specific projects and prep for many different courses of action.”
  • 40% Empowered team members to affect change
  • 20% Aligned with a mentor

Working it Out: Strategic Strategies for Staying Positive

It’s impressive how women leaders can turn negative situations into opportunities to influence their team to stay focused and be productive in the face of adversity. Handling negativity is a leadership skill that presents itself in the worst of circumstances but once learned can only enhance a leader’s skillset and prepare her for higher-level opportunities.

Some ideas to help you develop that skill: 

  • “All of the above and more, except moving on to another job.”
  • Decided that it’s not worth insanity – focusing on the positive.”
  • “I have the gift of encouragement and the ability to bring a calming spirit to a hostile situation, partly because of longevity, trust of employees, and positive relationships with diverse cultures and ethnicities.”
  • “I bring positivity to my sphere of influence, seeking to help people understand each other by sharing insights.”
  • “I used to confront but that seemed to hinder my positivity so I stopped. It was more important that I continue to be positive and do the right things regardless. This in and of itself has helped tremendously!”
  • “The best approach for me is to focus on what I can control and change. Remember that this too shall pass. A positive outlook helps no matter what the circumstance.”
  • “Give positive speeches, always encourage and come in to work with a positive attitude.”
  • “I try to be positive in every situation and portray a positive attitude, even if I’m not happy with the situation. “
  • “Boundaries (trying to focus on what I have influence over), doing my best at my job, and trying to encourage and support those I can, trying to calm down some of the negative feelings by helping people understand where others are coming from, doing what I can to make changes.