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Updated Oct 24, 2023

How to Develop a Positive Attitude in the Workplace

Your attitude at work can affect your career as well as your general outlook on life.

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Bassam Kaado, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
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Let’s face it: Work needs to be done. It doesn’t matter whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur; what separates you and others is how you approach your work. Having a positive attitude in the workplace can be one of the keys to getting your work done effectively and improving your overall work experience.

Embracing a positive outlook at work helps to create a collaborative and supportive culture that fosters productivity and personal growth. Positivity benefits not only you but also your employees, co-workers and customers. 

How to develop a positive attitude and mindset

Having a positive attitude can provide a crucial benefit for your workplace, but this helps only if you can develop the right kind of perspective. The stresses of work can make it difficult to sport the best possible mindset every day. Here are some strategies for how to develop a positive outlook.

Any employer looking to make their workers happy without offering more money can benefit from our 12 secrets to keeping your workforce happy.

Be encouraging and empathetic. 

Two colleagues high-fiving each other

Developing a positive attitude in the workplace can start with how you interact with your associates, regardless of their place in the hierarchy. Whether it’s celebrating the small victories or helping deal with a bad case of the Mondays, injecting optimism and encouragement into the workplace can benefit everyone.

Rachel Sheerin, a speaker on burnout and happiness, said positive people radiate a different energy. “Positive people show their positive attitude in their words, actions and feelings,” she said. “Positive people radiate differently, just by walking in a room with their energy — it changes the world and people around them.”

It’s important to not just develop a positive outlook but also to maintain it. It’s easy to be positive when things are going well, but sometimes, people will be going through tough times. Showing your employees, co-workers or clients empathy and respect demonstrates you care about their well-being. [Read related article: Best Careers for Empaths]

“I encourage my clients and their teams to remember that everyone is trying their best,” Sheerin said. “No one wakes up in the morning wanting to screw up or do a bad job — so give some consideration and empathy to others.”

Be a team player.

Your workplace is full of people working toward a common goal; you’re all acting as a team, whether directly or indirectly. Talk with your employees and co-workers to see how you can assist them. Helping others lighten their load, within reason, can strengthen your team.

Did You Know?Did you know
A strong team maintains a level of success and productivity no matter the circumstance. We laid out how to cultivate a resilient and adaptable team.

“You can show a positive attitude through the words you use,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation. “Become a ‘yes’ person, and try new things to see how you do. Give your time, and ask co-workers how you can help them out if you have a free moment. Volunteer to take the lead on new assignments. Be kind to everyone and genuine — do not gossip constantly or spread rumors.”

When you can do your job effectively and become a dependable team member, that trust you earn can improve your perspective and standing in the company. Security in your team and company provides you with more stability. 

Work with the right people. 

Person with thumbs up and smiley emojis around their head

Surrounding yourself with positive people in your work life can dramatically improve your attitude. Negative people can increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to maintain success at work. 

“If you find yourself surrounded by negative co-workers, see if you can switch cubicles or teams within the same department,” said Jessi Beyer, a speaker and personal development coach. “Make conscious decisions with your space and your time at work that will result in surrounding yourself with co-workers with positive attitudes.”

Both positivity and negativity can spread quickly throughout the company. “I am someone who will deliberately avoid spending time with people who have a bad attitude at work, or anywhere for that matter,” said Amy Finlay, co-founder of Edinburgh IFA. “As a positive attitude can be contagious, unfortunately, a negative attitude can also spread through people, and before you know it, your mindset can completely change with too much exposure to these types of people.”

Working with positive people will help you handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. 

FYIDid you know
Getting your team to work together fosters a strong, collaborative work culture. Here are six ways to get a team working together.

Focus on what’s in your control.

Realistically, you cannot control every single aspect of your work. You can be the beacon of positivity, but some people at your job will still be negative. But while you can’t control how people behave, you can decide how you let it affect you. 

“No matter the positive or negative attitudes at work, it’s important to be mindful in the workplace,” said Lizzie Benton, a culture consultant at Liberty Mind. “Rather than letting yourself be consumed by a negative attitude, question why that person might be coming across in that way. Don’t take it personally, and do your best to build a barrier against negative comments or behaviors.”

Focusing on what you can control will help you manage the amount of stress you allow in your life. Your mission at work is to get your job done as effectively as possible, so focus on the factors you can oversee. 

Treat yourself positively. 

Person looking at themselves in a mirror

No matter what stress you are experiencing in your work or personal life, you should always remember to be your biggest supporter. Practice positive self-talk. Framing daily events in a more positive light will help limit negative thinking. One way to approach this is to not say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. It’s important to be gentle and encouraging with yourself. 

If you start to think negatively, evaluate these ideas rationally. Replace defeatist thinking with affirmations of your strengths. Think about things you’re thankful for in your life, and reframe obstacles or roadblocks as opportunities for growth.

The importance of a positive attitude in the workplace

Whether it’s you or a co-worker who is going through a hard time, try to keep the negativity at bay.

“Misery may love company, but negativity has never lifted anyone up,” Sweeney said. “You feel better when you surround yourself with positive people. They encourage you to reach for the stars, work hard and stay focused on fulfilling your dreams. Positivity begets more positivity. Over time, you may find that even the most stubborn person in the office who refuses to enjoy something has a change of heart and changes to be more positive, all because you had such a great attitude.”

The presence of negativity in your company can be like dropping dye in a glass of water: You need only a few drops to change the whole look. Instead, try to make the work environment more conducive to positive attitudes and help diffuse the negativity.

Attitudes “either move the needle forward or keep it still,” Sweeney said. “A positive attitude keeps everyone trying new things, feeling brave about brainstorming new ideas, and makes people feel excited to go to work with their co-workers.”

Psychologists generally agree that our brains are hardwired to focus more energy on bad news. That tendency is exacerbated by instant news and videos of tragedies being uploaded seconds after they happen. But does that mean humanity is doomed to live in a cloud of negative energy? Most experts say no.

“The thought that you need 10 positive experiences to write over one negative one can definitely be true,” Beyer said. “One way to combat this is to approach the outcomes of negative situations with a learning mentality. Find one small takeaway from a situation, and your perception of that situation as negative will start to shrink.”

Maintaining a positive attitude takes work

Person meditating at work

Developing a strong positive attitude and mindset is a key to achieving success at work, but maintaining it isn’t always easy. To do so, you must not allow negative thoughts and energy to affect your daily progression.

By keeping your workforce in the right frame of mind, making your workplace as stress-free as possible and prioritizing the well-being of your workers, maintaining a positive attitude at work can be another challenge you conquer. 

Jennifer Post contributed to this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Bassam Kaado, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
Bassam Kaado is a marketing and PR maven with his own small firm focused on data management, lead tracking, brand management, and traditional and digital marketing strategies. He spends his days helping businesses in a variety of sectors sharpen their brand identity, raise awareness and improve conversion. Over the years, Kaado has mastered internal and external communication strategies across industries, studied the ins and outs of media relations and uncovered the secrets of successful social media and email campaigns. Kaado holds a communication degree from Rutgers and credentials in B2B marketing and using social media for business growth
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