Toxic work environments can make you feel like you’re running on empty: your performance suffers, you have feelings of extreme anxiety, and end up bringing your heavy heart home…only to lash out at those you love after work.
Pair this with working crazy hours, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Americans work too much: it’s a fact. A 2014 Gallup survey found that full-time workers in the U.S. reported working 47 hours a week on average. The same survey found that half of all full-time employees reported they usually work more than 40 hours, and almost “four in 10” said they work a minimum of 50 hours.
No matter what your hours are, you can’t control everything at work— but you do have the power to react positively to whatever comes your way, and encourage others to do the same. Not only will you lift your own mood and build resilience, which is a key skill to rising in your career, but you’ll also gain a reputation that will make you sought-after.
Here’s how to reap the benefits of positivity, while still being a real human who has to confront bad days.
Focus on what you can control
Don’t get too caught up in that sarcastic response the office snark gave your presentation during the team meeting, or the fact that your manager didn’t quit grasp your vision for your latest project the way you thought he or she would.
How others think and behave will always be up to them (even if it’s far from nice). Instead of worrying, come up with a way to move forward. You’re in control of how you react to discouragement or being provoked. Why is that a useful reminder? Because remembering your own autonomy make you a stronger performer.
Follow the golden rule
Treat others how you want to be treated. In other words, be kind.
Emma Seppala and Kim Cameron wrote about the impact of positive work environments on productivity in the Harvard Business Review.
“Engagement in work — which is associated with feeling valued, secure, supported, and respected — is generally negatively associated with a high-stress, cut-throat culture,” they wrote.
Similarly, Google found that “psychological safety” is the key to an effective team.
“…the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles,” Google wrote.
Being kind and making others feel comfortable around you should make things run more smoothly.
Get to know your co-workers
If you don’t take the time to learn about the people you spend so much time with every week, how do you expect to work well together?
Try making small talk. Ask about their lives, get to know them as people. Instead of relying on Slack, email and text messages, talk to them face to face, which allows for bonding. As much as technology has changed the world, humans still like to size each other up and take each others’ measure. Let your expression and tone express who you really are, and you may find people respond better than they would to a formal professional mask.
Forbes contributor, psychiatrist and executive coach Steven Berglas commented on getting more confident at doing this in a 2012 Forbes article.
“Building self-confidence is a two-phase process. The first phase involves purging yourself of self-doubt; in the second, you build up your confidence. It’s like erecting a skyscraper: First you clear the site and lay a solid foundation, then you stack the superstructure. How high you go–how much confidence you muster–is up to you,” Berglas told Forbes.
If you go out on a limb and talk to someone who wouldn’t be your first choice to go for drinks with after work, you might find that you have something in common.
Just don’t push it. Set boundaries by talking about office-friendly subjects while on the job. Seeming interested without being intrusive is a delicate balance.
Gratitude will change your workday — and your life
Whether it’s the fact that you don’t have work tomorrow because it’s Friday, or that you were able to strike up a promising conversation today with an company executive who has never seems to have noticed you in the hallway, don’t forget to be grateful.
This can also help you when you’re having a bad day at work.
Psychologist Robert Emmons wrote about how gratitude can help people fight stress in an article for UC Berkeley’s Greater Good.
“There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals. The contrast between suffering and redemption serves as the basis for one of my tips for practicing gratitude: remember the bad,” Emmons wrote.
Being grateful can also help your company, which is where your manager comes in.
Charles D. Kerns, PHD, MBA wrote about this idea for Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Review.
“When an employee believes his or her superiors are grateful for his or her work, the employee will benefit by having an improved sense of worth to the organization. This improved sense of worth can lead to performance improvement, thereby benefiting the organization,” Kerns wrote.
When you feel better, you work better.
Have a life outside of work
Your job shouldn’t be the biggest thing in your life. If it is, you’re more likely to be unhappy.
Ran Zilca wrote about a data analysis of the Happify app, where the data science team analyzed what makes people satisfied at work, in the Harvard Business Review.
“The bottom line: Satisfaction at work is influenced by factors such as benefits, pay, relationships, and commute length. But all of this boils down to two things being important, regardless of your circumstances: (1) having a life outside of work, and (2) having the money to afford it. If you have a job that grants you both of these, you might be happier than you realize,” Zilca wrote.
Strive for work-life balance. It makes you happier, healthier, and more effective at work.
The best part of being a joy to work with? Offices are subject to emotional contagion — so everyone around you is likely to be nicer too.