I was at a party recently where there was a mix of teachers and non-teachers – or ordinary people as they sometimes like to be known.
I overheard a poor spouse of one of my teacher friends remark ‘They’re getting stuck into all the ills of the world – I’m staying out of that!’ Sure enough, the teachers had found each other and were swapping war stories and shared frustrations. Luckily the food was soon ready, and their group dispersed in search of finger foods and topping up their drinks.
In any stressful profession, there is a shared vocabulary and need to ‘off-load’ when we are feeling overwhelmed.
Indeed, it is important for our mental health to voice our frustrations and connect with our negative feelings when they arise, in the hope that by doing so we can shift them more quickly. And I’m only talking about the rigours of our demanding education system.
What about when we have a confrontation with a difficult student or parent? Or when workplace politics is making our daily tasks awkward and uncomfortable? The need to vent can be all too real!
However, it is vital that we avoid negative conversations which are unnecessary and unhelpful.
Challenging a situation with the aim of making it better is one thing but moaning for the sake of doing so is quite another.
So how can you avoid workplace negativity?
Stay away from it
Well, the most obvious solution is to stay away from it. If you find yourself in a situation where negativity appears to be the desired focus of those involved, simply leave.
Avoid negative influences in the staff room; be sure to have lunch with people who will leave you in a better mood than when you arrived. Gossip is one of the worst forms of negativity and division in the workplace. Keep away from the gossipmongers!
Redirect the focus
However, what if you can’t leave? What if it’s a department meeting that you simply cannot walk out of? Be brave and redirect the conversation as swiftly as possible.
You might remind people of something that you have to discuss, or simply the pragmatism of using the meeting time most effectively.
Find a solution
Braver still, demand a solution. A lot of workplace negativity is fostered by people who love to complain, but rarely offer solutions. So, if someone is banging the same old drum about an issue, ask them what they think the best solution would be.
Even if their suggestion is ultimately not feasible, it will at least steer the conversation in a more positive direction and be sure to commend them for trying to tackle the issue.
Check in with yourself
And finally…what if the negativity is coming from you? Firstly, it is important to admit it to yourself; that’s always the toughest part. Then, check; is your negativity founded on a genuine issue, or are you just being negative as a way of seeking attention?
If it’s the latter, then ask why you need that attention. A little introspection may help bring deeper issues to the surface which could lead to some useful growth rather than perpetuating a negative habit.
About our Community Expert
Paul is an actor and English teacher from Northern Ireland. Alongside his acting career working in theatre, film and television across the UK, he also teaches in primary and secondary schools throughout London.
Paul provides performance coaching to both individual clients and businesses.