woman looking overwhelmed, wide-eyed and pressing palms to cheeks

Maybe you’re one of the few people who love all your workmates. If not, I assure you, you are not alone.

Most people have someone in their workplace who drives them around the bend. This certain person drags you down, sees the negative, and is sure to point out the faults and pitfalls of every idea that is shared. It’s tiring, right?

You can choose your friends, but you can seldom choose your colleagues. Some are a delight and others, well, not so much. So what is it that makes the difference?

The answer, in a word, is “attitude” — theirs AND yours.

Although you can’t control someone else’s stinky mood, the good news is that you have 100% control over your own. You’ve heard a million times to “have a good attitude”, or “be optimistic”. Sure, you likely agree with the concept. The piece that’s missing is that no one tells you HOW. Until now.

What I’m about to share with you has been honed over a lifetime of research, anecdotal experience and trial and error.

(PS: It’s also the spark that prompted me to write “The Finkelstein Factor: How to flip negative events into positive outcomes”) Here’s a few critical steps I discuss in the book. They will help you deal with the negative people in your life.

STEP ONE: Acknowledge the loss (i.e., the pain, what is concerning you).

STEP TWO: Flip the negative to a positive by asking yourself these questions …

  • How could it be worse?
  • What is my role?
  • What’s the “gift”?
  • What could I change for future?

It seems quite simple, doesn’t it? The best solutions often are. 

Don’t be deceived by the simplicity. It may be simple, but it’s not always easy. Answering these questions take thought and insight. The catch is actually doing the homework and applying these steps to your situation. 

It’s that movement from knowledge to action that will distinguish you as a winner versus a whiner wannabee. Having this process entrenched into your mindset changes your self-talk from negative, poor me, victim language to positive, powerful, and proven approaches. It moves you from victim to victor. 

Here’s how the process works.

Let’s use an example and apply the two-step system so you can see how it works in action. 

The answers you give to the critical questions will be personal to you and your experience. There are no right or wrong answers, just different ones. Here’s what some of my clients have told me with an example I use in my workshops.

EXAMPLE: Suppose you have a bully boss.

STEP ONE: acknowledge the loss.

What exactly is it that you lose when you have a bully boss? You may feel that you’re losing:

  • freedom
  • opportunities for plum projects
  • recognition from peers
  • self-esteem
  • a chance to apply your existing skills and hone new ones
  • sleep
  • health

Your list could be pages long. Take the time to dig down when you are writing your personal list of losses regarding your specific situation, such as dealing with a negative person or bully. There is no limit of the losses and hurts you could enunciate. The more you write, the more you become aware of why it hurts and why the situation is bothering you so.

STEP TWO: Flip the negative to a positive.

Q1: How could it be worse?

  • The boss could be even nastier than he/she already is
  • He/She could have broken me already (she hasn’t)
  • I could have exploded in front of everyone (you’ve held it together)
  • I might not have any other job options (I do … I create my own reality and always have options)
  • If I didn’t have a trusted sounding board such as a supportive family, friends, a professional confidant or counselor

Q2: What is my role?

What did you do to contribute to this situation. This isn’t about playing the guilt or blame game, it’s about stepping back and seeing how you may have done something, or refrained from doing or saying something, that helped this negative situation grow. What was it? In this case, maybe it was …

  • I didn’t speak up when I could have
  • I nodded when I really didn’t agree with what he/she was saying
  • I said I would do something though I really didn’t want to

Q3: What’s the “gift”?

  • It’s given you a chance to practice asserting yourself
  • You’ve done an inventory of your skills and brushed off your resume (that’s empowering!)
  • You’re learning new coping strategies
  • You’re stronger than you ever knew
  • You’re modeling for other colleagues how to handle a bully

Q4: What will I change for future? (That is, how could I prevent this from happening again?)

  • Prevent the situation from snowballing by knowing and setting your bully boundaries from the start
  • Check out a new boss before I begin working with him/her so I’m better prepared … and feed that into my decision to take the job or not
  • Apply my newly acquired coping skills
  • Build up positive support in advance so it’s there when I need it
  • Learn in advance how to handle bullies and tough people

Having a winning attitude is just one of many winning strategies YOU can apply to your workplace … and life. 

This process has helped hundreds and hundreds of my clients. It will help you deal with negative people and negative situations too. I’m positive of it.

Updated from original publication ©2013 Marion Grobb

©2023 Marion Grobb Finkelstein (MarionSpeaks)

Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”
SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube videos at YouTube.com/@MarionSpeaks/videos

Leadership communication expert, Marion Grobb Finkelstein shows leaders at any level how to build resilient and respectful workplaces by changing how they communicate. Chat with her at www.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks or
www.linkedin.com/in/marionspeaks and sign up for her FREE “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com

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Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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