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October 3, 2011 / mike54martin

Creating Positive Workplace Attitudes

Creating Positive Workplace Attitudes

By Mike Martin

 There are two types of attitude in every workplace, positive and negative attitudes. Negative attitudes can result from a series of factors including the overall workplace environment, the attitude of superiors and the individual themselves. Positive attitudes can result from the exactly the same situational and personal factors. What is the difference? The difference is in the thinking.

People with a negative attitude may have a lot of reasons to be less than positive in their workplace but the primary reason for their negativity is actually their thinking. Scientists and researchers who have studied this phenomenon have come up with a long list of thinking patterns that they call distorted thinking styles. Have a look at the list and see if you can recognize yourself or others in your workplace.


  • Filtering: You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.
  • Polarized Thinking: Things are black or white, good or bad. You have to be perfect or you’re a failure. There is no middle ground.
  • Overgeneralization: You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once you expect it to happen over and over again.
  • Mind Reading:  Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you.
  • Castastrophizing: You expect disaster. you notice or hear about a problem and start “what if’s”. What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you?”
  • Personalization: Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who’s smarter, better looking, etc.
  • Control Fallacies: If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you.
  • Fallacy of Fairness: You feel resentful because you think you know what’s fair but other people won’t agree with you.
  • Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other tack and blame yourself for every problem or reversal.
  • Should: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules.
  • Emotional Reasoning: You believe that what you feel must be true-automatically. If you feel stupid and boring, then you must be stupid and boring.
  • Fallacy of Change: You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hope for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.
  • Global Labeling: You generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment.
  • Being Right: You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness.
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score. You feel better when the reward doesn’t come
  • Passive Thinking: You believe that your wants, needs and rights are not important enough to assert with others.

Don’t be surprised if you see yourself being labeled a few times in this exercise. Where do these negative thinking patterns come from? Maybe it is your upbringing or your family dynamics or just your coping mechanism for life. In any case it really doesn’t matter how you got this way, what is important is to recognize that these patterns are contributing to a negative attitude at work and in order to create a positive attitude some things will have to change.

Where do you start? Just be recognizing your patterns you have made a beginning. This knowledge will let you see how your thinking is affecting your day to day life especially at work. For the next week keep a negative thinking log that tracks when you feel less than positive at work. Try and identify the thinking style that accompanies that feeling. Then check it against reality. Is it real or just your old thinking pattern? If it’s just your distorted thinking style then you are ready for change.

It may sound simple but the best way to deal with a negative thought is to replace it with a positive one. Your mind is a marvelous feat of engineering but it can only hold one thought at a time. If you want to change that thought just focus on something else; anything else. Amazingly that negative thought or attitude will just vanish. Then you can replace it with something positive like what a nice day it is outside or the steak you going to have for dinner. Be forewarned however, if you don’t replace it with a positive thought then the negativity will just as quickly return.

Another quick and easy way to get out of a negative funk is to find the people in your workplace who already have a positive attitude and spend more time hanging out with them. If you spend your time with negative people who are always whining and complaining, especially about work, is it any wonder that you start acting and talking like them? If you are having a particularly gloomy day those positive bright lights in your office might be able to give you a little lightness or get you back on the positive track.

There are many more ways to help create a positive attitude at work, for yourself and others. Remember that if you are the manager or supervisor then you have a double duty to try and bring and maintain a positive attitude. Your subordinates are looking to you for guidance and if you are in a downbeat mood, then don’t be surprised if the whole office follows suit. Creating that positive attitude for yourself will take time and energy but if you can do it at work, then just watch as this positivity starts to take root in the rest of your life as well.

Actually both pieces are interconnected and what you do in both areas of your life will affect the other. That’s where self-care like proper nutrition and sleep along with moderation of all vices will come in particularly helpful. If you can add some additional positives like regular exercise and some form of meditation you can quickly grow into that positive person you’d really like to be.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit:



Leave a Comment
  1. / Oct 3 2011 1:21 pm

    Loved this post! Never thought- or saw- that many negative items in a list. I am thrilled to know that most of these don’t resonate here! Now, to solicit the thoughts of my team…

  2. on the ball parent coach / Oct 3 2011 1:40 pm

    What an outstanding post! Though you have written for the workplace setting, all of it’s points are applicable to life in general. I’ll keep it in my file and share it with the parents I work with. Families too can make great use of these skills to grow stronger and more importantly, feel happier… more fulfilled in their relationships.

    All the points are excellent hence making it tough to pick a favorite. I do like “heaven’s reward fallacy”. It makes sense that if we keep our expectations in check, we have less reason for disappointment.

  3. Jingles / Oct 3 2011 4:32 pm

    “It may sound simple but the best way to deal with a negative thought is to replace it with a positive one.”

    This is actually really great advice. I recently wrote about some mail issues I was having, but I think I may re-write the article with a more positive spin. Great advice.

  4. Lanre / Oct 3 2011 11:20 pm

    I used to think some of those attitudes were normal. Your post has just made me realize some of their negativity. The knowledge of this will be useful in the work place and the home. Hmmm.. I think I’m guilty of a few… Great post.

  5. Lanre / Oct 3 2011 11:25 pm

    I used to think some of these attitudes were normal. Your post has just made me realize some of their negativity. Knowing this will be useful in the work place and the home. Hmmm… I think I’m guilty of a few… Great post.

    • mike54martin / Oct 4 2011 2:56 am

      Thanks Lanre> Appreciate the comments.

  6. John / Oct 4 2011 12:12 am

    Great blog. I can so relate. Keep up the great work.

  7. Catarina / Oct 4 2011 3:16 pm

    The glass is either half full or half empty. Honestly believe we will always have both positive and negative people in this world. The fact that positive thinking is in vogue doesn’t change that.

    It’s up to an inspirational leader to have an impact on the people with half empty glasses. If he/she doesn’t manage to do so he/she is not a leader but a manager.

    • mike54martin / Oct 4 2011 3:22 pm

      Hi Catarina. I agree with you but…. the amazing thing is that some people do not actually realize that they are being negative, but they are and they do affect others. These are the people that we have a chance of moving back from the dark side. The ones who choose negativity become difficult people and then we need different strategies like the ones I outline in my book.
      Thanks for your comments
      Mike Martin
      Author of Change the Things You Can (Dealing with Difficult People)

  8. Pranay Nigotiya / Oct 5 2011 6:41 am

    hi Mike, your points make sense and i feel they are very much likely to be applied in practical life too not only professionally. I also like the way of writing because it helps to understand and connect. Thanks for sharing valuable points.

    • mike54martin / Oct 5 2011 11:13 am

      Thanks Pranay. I appreciate your comments.

  9. Susan Oakes / Oct 5 2011 11:54 pm

    Good insights Mike. I have found people who are negative in a workplace often are just thinking about themselves and how things affect them. It also takes up much more energy if you constantly have negative thoughts.

    • mike54martin / Oct 6 2011 4:04 pm

      Hi Susan. Thanks for your comments. I agree that most negativity is really selfish behaviour. Sometimes they don’t even know the impact they are having.

  10. Sherryl Perry / Oct 9 2011 1:33 am

    Mike, As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but remember a woman that I used to work with. No matter what went wrong for someone, she always had a personal story of a similar situation that she had been in – but of course – her experience was much worse. I never really figured out why she did that. Other than that one quirk, she was a nice person and meant well. I used to just listen, nod my head and then carry on. I think she may just have been lonely.

  11. Kitty Kilian / Oct 12 2011 6:53 pm

    Some people however are stuck in a bad spot. With a boss who is just mean. What should they do?

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