Therapy That Works...

Don't Worry, Be Happy - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy: How Workplace Happiness Leads to Success

August 6th, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Downsizing, job layoffs and a 9.7% unemployment rate have all lowered the morale of millions of working Americans. But what happens when the workplace blues affects your performance?

So why do we get so negative at work?

There are several reasons:

  • Brains Cued for Blues: Negative thinking has a life of it is own and is generated by a neurological circuitry that is reinforced each time you become negative. Even though you may have the best of intentions, your brain kicks into negativity with the first challenge. You experience a sudden startup of the blues without even thinking about it.
  • Emotional Contagion: Emotions are contagious and we are all vulnerable to the “infectious negativity” that dominates millions of offices, especially in a beleaguered economy. Negativity is catching and according to the Wharton School of Business, we see decreased cooperation, an increase of interpersonal conflict and a decreased sense of accomplishment.
  • Bullies, Divas and “Emotional Vampires”: Bullies, divas and emotional vampires dominate the workplace and are often in positions of power and influence. They love to ruin your day. They magnify the downside and minimize the upside. Cutting comments, worst-case scenarios and reviewing past injuries drag everyone down. We marinate in this pessimism and then wonder why we get so negative.
  • Cubicle Downers: The physical cues of the workplace can trigger you for stress. Just entering your office space makes your mood down a few points. Studies show that environment influence mindset in a profound way. Boring walls, industrial carpet and uncomfortable furniture trigger us to “go negative” the minute we walk in the door.

You may be wondering if there is a gender difference in this phenomenon and here it is:

Women are more susceptible to workplace negativity due to three factors.

  • Emotional Brain Overload: Our emotional memory capacity is twice that of a man’s so we are able to remember everything that others say and do, good and bad. Grudge holding is especially tempting for women.
  • Women Love Emotional Garbage: Women are especially vulnerable to picking up the emotional “garbage” of others and then wondering why they feel bummed out. In addition, we engage in too much gossiping which spreads negativity like wildfire.
  • Need for Consensus: Our overriding need for consensus is an asset and a liability. Too many of us grieve when there is dissension and worry about why things are negative at work. We blame ourselves and blame each other.

Here are some tips to shift your mood when you feel your negativity rising:

Quickly switching your mood is a discipline, not an event. It requires psychological “muscle” that you build over time by actively fighting against the downward spiral each time it occurs. Negativity reinforces negativity but the reverse is also true of positive thinking.

Here are some quick tips that work every time:

  • Don’t Deny the Negative: Do not deny the existence of negative events, just deal. You won’t solve your problem by ruminating. Worrying just makes you overestimate the problem. Remind yourself that this situation is not permanent, and that you will survive.
  • Disciplined Attention: Next apply a disciplined attention to the positives and to the possible. Redirect away from panic and focus on the small steps you need to take today to remedy the situation now. Then outline the remaining steps to resolving the problem. Break it down and keep it simple. Remind yourself that you can make a difference in improving the outcome.
  • Directed Mental Force: List your blessings, your advantages, and your strengths while expressing gratitude for all you have been given. Train your brain to appreciate the good things about work and the fact that you still have your job in a harsh economy.
  • Mood Stabilization: Sustainable happiness requires a constant shifting away from the negative and a disciplined embracing of the positives. You may have setbacks, but by remaining stable in your mood, your accuracy about reality will increase along with your job success.

Recent Posts