Updated on 05.24.10

The Cost of Negativity

Trent Hamm

Several years ago, at my first post-college job, I worked in a small office with three other people. One of them (who I’ll call Campbell) was probably the best co-worker I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. The other (who I’ll call Kathy) made the office environment so poisonous through her constant negativity that I considered quitting after six months.

Every day, Campbell and I were faced with criticisms without suggestions for improvement. We also were tasked on a nearly-daily basis with dealing with perceived quality faults in her work environment. During our weekly meetings with our supervisor, she would announce that she hadn’t completed tasks for the week because of her “unhospitable” coworkers, blaming us for nearly everything under the sun.

Eventually, Campbell and I came to an understanding that we would tackle the project as a two person team. At our weekly meetings, one of the two of us volunteered for every task that needed to be done. We began to ignore her complaints and criticisms.

In the final three months of our nine month “startup” period, our two person team completed an order of magnitude more progress on the overall project than the three person team had completed in the first six months of the project.

Campbell and I often criticized each other’s work. But with that criticism came a reason for why it was a problem and a suggestion or an idea for how to improve things.

Campbell and I were often extremely disgruntled at Kathy but we learned quickly that it was a waste of our time to dwell on those negative thoughts. Rather than “venting” or pouring out negative feelings onto each other or onto society in general, we made it a point of pride to channel those sentiments into our work.

The best “revenge” I ever got on Kathy was presenting a great project at the end of the nine month period with her name slapped right on the cover along with mine. All negativity would have done was make the project worse and that would have reflected poorly on me.

What happened? Follow-up discussions on the project demonstrated very quickly that Kathy had no idea whatsoever what was going on with our project. She was let go within a week and several months later, Kathy had been replaced with perhaps the second best coworker I’ve ever had.

I learned a few huge lessons from this.

Dwelling on negative thoughts is a waste of time and energy that makes your performance worse. Every moment you spend thinking negatively about someone, making negative comments about someone, writing negative emails or forum posts, and so on, you’re wholly wasting your own energy. They don’t improve you, your own performance, or your own success in any way.

The negative impact of others will eventually be discovered if you maximize your own competence. If you do the best job you can possibly do, the incompetence of those around you will eventually become clear on its own. Patience and persistence is the key here. You have to simply stop dwelling on your negative feelings towards others.

Spreading negative thoughts around usually just reflects poorly on you, not on the person you’re deriding. Almost always, the person who spreads caustic thoughts about someone else looks bad, particularly when the person in question is obviously working hard in a positive, friendly fashion. Thus, the best antidote to negativity is to work as positively and effectively as possible.

The best “revenge” is succeeding on your own merits regardless of the source of negativity. If you truly want to seek some form of “revenge” on someone else, use that feeling as a motivator for your own success. Rather than spreading around caustic comments and behavior, channel that feeling into your own productivity, making it so that your own success outshines them.

Channel short term negativity into something else. If I’m feeling very negative to the point that it’s affecting my work, I channel it into something personal. I’ll go exercise vigorously. I’ll play an action video game. I’ll go shopping for groceries (weirdly, this is really therapeutic for me when I’m upset). If your short term emotional rush is making it difficult for you to do what you need to be doing, channel it into something private and physical – exercise is perhaps the best overall solution.

Negativity doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help those around you. The best use for negative feelings is to burn them as the fuel for something positive without dumping that negativity out onto others.

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  1. Money Smarts says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I have a friend that is always griping about one thing or another, and it’s hard to even be around her. She constantly has problems holding onto friends, and she has no idea why. I know for a fact it’s because she constantly complains, gripes about even the smallest things, and is tough to get along with. I think most people just choose not to deal with this type of negativity, and would rather be around others who are positive and uplifting.

  2. Stella says:

    Really great post. I’ve got some issues with a few co-workers, but your advice about not getting caught up in their negativity is thought-provoking, inspiring and spot on!

  3. Stephan says:

    The glass is half full, not half empty =)

    Preferred Financial Services

  4. Nina says:

    Yes, some people want to spend their life walking under a dark cloud and it’s always raining, never sunny. Trent’s approach is/was the most positive way to avoid being rained on….great post, thanks! :)

  5. WendyH says:

    I’ve had experience with negative people just like this:

    In one case it was a severe lack of self-esteem on the part of a co-worker that she covered by her negativity and ability to find fault with everything. Recognizing this and trying to bolster her self-confidence didn’t help either, she would just find something else to be negative and toxic about. It took me a long time to stop responding to her and “trying to help”.

  6. Stephan: The glass is always full, it just depends on what it is full of…

  7. katie says:

    The big problem is when the negative person is your boss. I was temping at a company where my boss obviously hated me. I have no idea why – the sight of me seemed to disgust him. Thankfully it was just a temp gig. I couldn’t work under him for more than the six weeks I put in.

  8. chacha1 says:

    S & S: there is no glass

    Props to Trent, this is one of the best posts I’ve read here. Negativity (my own) made a past job, that was horrible enough on its merits, into a living hell. Changing my attitude made a real life change possible.

  9. Hope D says:

    While in college I worked at the financial aid department with a horrible employee. She would complain constantly about everything. To tell the truth she was lazy and not very bright. One day I was sitting in the office and didn’t see her. I turned to a co-worker and said, “I am so glad “she” is not here today. I can’t stand her.” The co-worker smiled noncommittedly. She was standing right there. I just hadn’t seen her. I felt terrible. I always thought I was a nice person. I learned a lot that day about myself. I wasn’t as good of a person as I thought. I set out to make changes in myself. I hope I have succeeded. She was let go a week later because she had flunked out. I felt bad for her then. Don’t let a coworkers bad behavior change you.

  10. Johanna says:

    There are two sides to every story.

    (You knew this was coming, didn’t you?)

    Kathy probably complained that her coworkers were inhospitable because her coworkers were inhospitable. If they weren’t inhospitable to begin with, they certainly were by the end. The reason she had no idea what was going on with the project was because Trent and Campbell deliberately excluded her from the project. And she got fired because of it. I’d call that revenge, no scare quotes needed.

    Kathy isn’t here to defend herself, so I don’t know whether her misdeeds actually justified the kind of treatment she ended up receiving. But I do know that in the past, Trent has accused people of “complaining” and “negativity” when they are just voicing legitimate grievances. And it does sound like Kathy had some legitimate grievances to voice.

  11. Des says:

    This story reminds me of my roommate’s work situation. He would come home every day with a new story of his negative co-workers. But I work in the same building, and hear the gossip from both ends (plus I live with him). What he didn’t realize was that HE was the one causing the problems. He was inconsiderate of their shared workspace. He was unable to handle even the slightest criticism without lashing out defensively. He wasn’t conscious of when the workload was getting heavy and everyone needed to pick up the pace. Yet, because of his own defensiveness and inability to accept criticism, no one could correct him. He would say “I don’t understand why management doesn’t do something” without realizing that, if they did, he would be the one out of work rather than his co-workers. He ended up quitting.

    Maybe one way to handle the negativity of those around you would be to take a look at your own behavior and see if there is room for improvement.

  12. jim says:

    Johanna, Sure we only got one side to the story here but so what? Kathy probably feels she is a good worker and a victim just as most awful workers do. Just from the facts of the story here I don’t see any good reason to think Kathy is the victim or that she had legitimate grievances. She failed to volunteer for projects. She failed to participate in a project she was assigned to. Must of us have had bad coworkers at some point in our careers and its not any stretch to believe Trent had an overly negative coworker.

  13. Deborah Johnson says:

    One of the best lessons I’ve learned in the past couple of years is while I cannot control the behavior of others, I can control how I react to it.

    That simple lesson has had a profound impact on my life.

  14. Matt says:

    I’m not sure what putting Kathy’s name on your paper is accomplishing. That seems to only encourage bad behavior and poor productivity on their part — why do work if you’re a “team” and can get away with it?
    The proper course of action is, if they aren’t contributing, to NOT put their name on it. And to have already corroborated with the “leader” or teacher or whomever it was, to put a stop to that nonsense.

  15. marta says:

    Yeah, I don’t think it was such a great idea to put Kathy’s name on the project. That was kinda passive aggressive, actually.

    If she didn’t contribute at all, let that be addressed properly. The end result would most likely have been the same, but perhaps you and Campbell wouldn’t look so good either, for deliberately excluding her and so on.

    I am not saying she wasn’t a bad coworker — I have no way of knowing that — but I am not sure you handled the situation that well.

  16. cynthia says:

    Thanks for a great post. Work relationships can be very challenging and I appreciate many of your suggestions.

  17. Tuan says:

    I am in this situation as we speak. I can not thank you enough for writing this excellent article.

  18. I can’t stand negative people because they complain about everything. I try to surround myself with positive people

  19. Trent, way to turn a negative into a positive. You cannot let negative people get you down and you did not let Kathy bring you down. Unfortunately for Kathy, it seems that her attitude was well known and it probably contributed to her performance and her being let go.

    We should also keep in mind that negative people may have deeper issues going on in their lives and may suffer from depression or other mental health issues. I wonder what was really going on with Kathy and would love to hear her story told too, but I know that this is probably not possible.

  20. J. O. says:

    Good post.

    @ ConsumerMiser – you raised a good point regarding the possibility of depression or other issues coloring a person’s outlook.

  21. Matt says:

    This sounds just like my student’s in high school. They pair up, are given tasks to meet in order to succeed on a project. When presenting it is evident who took the initiative to get stuff done and learn something, and who sat back to let the other person do the work. Even if Trent stopped involving “Kathy” in the loop, if “Kathy” was a hard and respectable worked she would have gotten reassigned to another project or took it upon herself to realize that she needed to get other tasks done. Instead, I’d wager, she was perfectly content letting others do the work for her. Capitalism took its course.

  22. Matt Maresca says:

    Tremendous stuff here, I applaud your personal growth process on the job! I’ve found that negativity is highly contagious but we all hold our individual vaccines. At the same time, positivity is often contagious as well. In your case, you and “Campbell” seemed to have rubbed off on each other in a positive way, which ended up having a huge benefit on your team performance. Unfortunately, “Kathy” seems to have used her negative vaccine and didn’t want anything to do with the good stuff.

  23. A positive mental attitude is a must on the journey out of debt.

    You’ll be lost without it.

  24. Rachel S says:

    I had a negative co-worker who arrived not long before we began working on a large funding application.

    Looking at the timeline, she announced that we did not have enough time to prepare the materials before the deadline, repeating this opinion every time she was asked to do something for the project. I was supposed to be a supporting role for this, but found myself doing most of her work (at the request of our boss)

    I grumbled about her, and also about the extra workload and the deadline, which was pretty close, but not at work, rather to my parents, who gave me a terrific piece of advice:
    Even if you feel what you’re being asked to do is impossible, you are still being paid to do your very best. You just might get it done, in which case you’ll look great, and if the inevitable happens and you don’t, at least it will be obvious that it wasn’t for lack of trying on your part.

    That’s what I did, whilst my coworker continued on her path of negativity. We did get the application submitted in time, and my extra effort towards this was not unnoticed by my boss.

    My coworker was fired not long after this, and I now have her job.

  25. Mel says:

    I agree with those saying there’s probably another side, simply because I have probably (unintentionally) been “Kathy”.
    I was working for a startup – the owner, me and 2 students (theoretically working part-time). The students were at University together and socialised together, while I was working on my own, from home. Communication was awful, and although I tried to improve it, almost every meeting I found out about something new the students had suggested to the owner, and he’d accepted. More often than not, that impacted negatively on my work. After a few months we mutually agreed it wasn’t working and I left. I’m sure they feel almost the same way about me as you do about Kathy, but I can honestly say that I wasn’t the problem. A symptom perhaps, but not the problem.

  26. bon says:

    Great post, it’s indeed time to get positive
    I have had a negative co worker and i let him read this article. Things are a lot better now.

  27. Andrzej says:

    I am always curious, how “positive” people can write so many “negative” words on “being negative” and think it is all right… Thinking really positive way means you can’t even notice a negativeness! That’s why I am in fact convinced that talking about it is waste of time. If you are negative on negativeness, you are still in negative attitude, otherwise you simply do not see it…

  28. littlepitcher says:

    I’m in that situation, and try to minimalize the attitude damage from the negative influence by visualizing the screaming and complaints as just big noise from flashy green dollar bill pyrotechnics. Minimizing contact with the constant complainer and joking about the situation whenever possible keep damage down, as well. Since the complainer has been abandoned by three wives, I’m quite certain that the situation is not my fault.

    Always remind oneself that the money is the reason, and always CYA in case the complainer decides to scapegoat you.

  29. AnneKD says:

    I really liked this post, Trent. I’ve worked in toxic environments but never went to the point of excluding the problem person. Sometimes the problem was temporary (personal problems), sometimes it was a life decision on their part.

    One other thing that struck me is at the end of the post, when you mentioned that going grocery shopping helps you get over being upset. Is it because you’re thinking of what to cook (creativity), thinking about others (feeding your family) or because you’ve done the work to find good deals (‘beating the system’)?

  30. getagrip says:

    I can agree that Kathy probably has a very different view. From her end I’m sure no one listened to her ideas, she was excluded, and decisions were made without her input.

    I’ve run into plenty of folks like this before, lots of complaints and no original ideas, no action for solutions. I’ve gone out of my way on projects to ensure input from everyone. But you know, if all someone does is complain about things we don’t have, can’t get, and aren’t within the scope of what we’re doing, and they can’t let go of it, they aren’t helping. I’ll try stopping the tirades with simple questions like: “Neat, can you get that support?”, “That’s an interesting viewpoint, what would it take to make that happen and do you have an idea how to get started?”, “That would be nice but how is that going to help us with this project right now?”

    Sometimes they put out more negativity, sometimes they provide a position that can’t be supported, sometimes they actually give some good ideas no one else has thought of, but it’s clear pretty quickly if all they’re doing is venting without providing solutions I’m going to call them out on it. In the best cases they stop all the negativity and begin to contribute and actually can have great ideas, in the worst they shut up and sulk. Either way they minimize the vile they bring to the table and the project moves forward.

  31. Dana says:

    I agree that it is different if it is your boss, not a co-worker. I currently work as an assistant to a boss who is negative, irrational, and arbitrary; she is constantly blaming me for things that she has failed to do and makes the environment extremely stressful when it could be fun. I have decided to quit because there is simply no way to rise above this.

  32. Trudy says:

    Very timely post for me – dealing with this type of situation at work as we speak. Any suggestions at the moment so I can get to get past the negativity is helpful!

  33. This is a great post- NPR recently published a pole where over 60% of workers are unsatisfied with their jobs.
    I use to think venting with co-workers at lunch was helpful. It let the frustration out but it always seemed to feed on itself. A nice hike after work helps me. It also is a great transition from the workday to home.

  34. brad says:

    good post! i like the overall message, though i agree with those who say you shouldn’t have put her name on the project. if she was any good at planning/bs’ing, she wouldve been brushing up on her own for the certain eventuality of having to discuss the project. never rely on others to be the executioner of your revenge.

  35. Adam P says:

    Without Kathy’s side of the story, we’ll just assume her guilt in the matter. I realise that this was a “start up” so it may not have been possible, but why didn’t you and your competent co-worker simple explain to whoever was in charge what the problem was and resolve it? This seems a better course of action than allowing her to be paid for doing nothing for over a year.

    Putting her name on a report without her contribution and without explaining this to the person who you are submitting the report to doesn’t seem like a mature or sensible way to act for an adult. Maybe in the 5th grade?

  36. T'Pol says:

    I was the manager of a small group of people few years ago. There was one person who was constantly complaining and constantly jealous of others. She was performing just about average. I wanted to fire her many times because of the negativity she was bringing to the group and pulling everybody down but, since she had a bad marriage and a daughter, I did not take action. To this day, I regret not having fired her…

  37. Hotrao says:

    I’m not a doctor or a psycologist, and what follows is only my personal thought.

    Dealing effectively with negativity is very important and the article gives some good tips. For example one of my favourite (because I definitely agree on this) is the one that suggests to channel negativity in something else. I think it can give you an extra boost to achieve goals using an “aikido” approach.

    What I think, though, is that there are some phisiologic levels of “spot negativity” which are “healthy” for life (like unhappiness) because make you appreciate the moments where negativity is absent. In those moments, advices can help you focusing more on exiting from negativity and have chance to work.

    But there are moments of deep negativity, where the solution for exiting and dealing with is very difficult to be found in a different place than inside yourself.

  38. Jon says:

    “The best “revenge” I ever got on Kathy was presenting a great project at the end of the nine month period with her name slapped right on the cover along with mine. All negativity would have done was make the project worse and that would have reflected poorly on me.”

    “The best “revenge” is succeeding on your own merits regardless of the source of negativity. If you truly want to seek some form of “revenge” on someone else, use that feeling as a motivator for your own success. Rather than spreading around caustic comments and behavior, channel that feeling into your own productivity, making it so that your own success outshines them.”

    Wow. If only you took your own advice. Glad I never worked with you. Ever think about taking the high road and talking to management about your issues?

  39. James says:

    This is definitely a well written post. I feel like you are talking to me at this very moment. At times I see myself being frustrated at my job because of the negativity in the workforce. I really appreciate this article because it speaks directly to me.

  40. eh438 says:

    Brilliant! The efforts of an enlightened person! Keep on accentuating the positive, Trent! Thank you for your continued growth and courage to write about it.

  41. Andrea says:

    I work in a similar environment except its more than just one negative person. I decided a long time ago not to listen to or be a part of the negativity because it takes more energy being negative than it does to just do the work… At the end of the year when it was time for bonuses guess who got the bonus and guess who sat around being negative because they did not get an increase in pay! :-)

  42. andrea peck says:

    I love your blog – it is really the only one I read. This particular topic reminds me of the story of the woman who made dolls everytime she got mad at her husband. After 50 or so years of marriage, this became known to her husband. The joke was that she did not just make one doll as her husband thought – she had made thousands of them and sold them – providing herself with a huge sum! It’s a very funny story…

  43. APB says:

    Incredibly timely as well as very well written. This touches on a conversation with my best friend yesterday regarding a work situation as well as our ongoing venting about life in general. While it seems ‘satisfying’ and we often gain some insights, we keep chewing on the same stuff and no one is really feeling better. In fact, we’re just reliving all the injustices over and over again with no real resolution. We were talking about better ways to process and transform these situations. I laughed when I saw she sent me this article in my email this morning! Perfect. Thank you!

  44. Kristine says:

    I think whatever we focus on is what we see unfold. So, I think it’s great that in spite of Kathy’s negative, Trent and Campbell were able to work productively.

    It definitely is a challenge to work past someone’s negativity. I struggled with it for years at my old job. But, it was good practice to keep learning to keep my focus on what I want, thereby creating situations that were more positive – receiving a raise, an increase in pay…

  45. Simon Zhen says:

    Every college student goes through this at one point in school. There are group projects all the time and there is always this one person who either fails to contribute or makes it difficult to do so.

    I’ve tried different approaches when these situations occurr.

    1) Just as Trent did, exclude this person and complete the project. The project was definitely finished more efficiently without having to worry whether this person was going to help out or not.

    2) Take it up with the professor. Often, they’ll try not to shake things up and attempt to make a reasonable solution, which never really works. Since our grades are dependent on the WHOLE group’s participation, one person can mess it up for everyone.

    3) Confront the person. Group projects test our ability to work in teams and collaborate nicely. Sometimes, failure to do so makes the whole group look bad, not just any one person.

    There is no right way to do it. Different ways work for different people under different circumstances.

    Dismissing the negativity, though, would make life much more productive and efficient (not to mention less taxing on health due to stress). Bad things will happen in life and it’s our ability to shed some light that makes us pass the day.

  46. mikey says:

    I have a coworker that says he’s always stressed and has medication to help him out. The problem is he doesn’t take the meds. So he misses work all the time. Many of my coworkers say “doesn’t that make you mad?” Yes it does especially since mgmt seems to coddle this man in his late 30’s. So I filled out our company survey and provided helpful criticism to hopefully guide him and wake him up to him realizing what he is doing.

    In the end you can’t get sucked in to the comments just smile and nod and interject with positive comments to turn them around. Being an example gives you the edge.

  47. Dolphineus says:

    Well said. Thank you.

  48. Jess says:

    Trent, thank you for this post!! It’s tough when you work in a negative environment not to be swept up in all of it. I’ve forwarded this along to my boss and my co-workers.

  49. sdjensen says:

    Yes–I think we have all experienced this in one form or another. I remember as an exec admin in the past I was responsible for many sales leads and servicing several accts, but the salespeople got the overall credit. Later when asked details about the client, the sales pros couldn’t answer the CEOs questions about the client’s concerns–as they hadn’t done their homework–just me (I still find this so funny)

  50. BonzoGal says:

    To those who question Trent’s inclusion of Kathy’s name on the project: when you’re expected to work with a team, leaving someone’s name off the project, even if they DIDN’T do any work, is seen as petty and unprofessional. The team is the team, no matter what. Like Trent said, if the management is savvy, they know who really did the bulk of the work.

    His message seems to be a version of “Living well is the best revenge.” Too true! Being a true professional and not lowering yourself to a colleague’s negative level is the best revenge because you come out looking like a pro.

  51. SLCCOM says:

    Another option is to take the opportunity to help the negative person change his/her approach. When they complain, ask, “So,what would you suggest for a solution?” You can help teach them to start looking for answers instead of just complaining.

    You might want to start reading the books, “Crucial Conversations” and get onto that e-mail list for ways to turn negative situations around and make things better for everyone. Just Google it!

    Also, http://www.SpeakStrong.com has great advice for handling work and personal situations that need improvement. Both of these can teach you ways to move from “win-lose” to “win-win” thinking.

  52. SLCCOM says:

    #36 SLCCOM @ 11:37 am May 25th, 2010

    Another option is to take the opportunity to help the negative person change his/her approach. When they complain, ask, “So,what would you suggest for a solution?” You can help teach them to start looking for answers instead of just complaining.

    You might want to start reading the books, “Crucial Conversations” and get onto that e-mail list for ways to turn negative situations around and make things better for everyone. Just Google it!

    Also, SpeakStrong.com has great advice for handling work and personal situations that need improvement. Both of these can teach you ways to move from “win-lose” to “win-win” thinking.

  53. MattJ says:

    Posts like this make me appreciate my job, and my coworkers.

  54. CarolynB says:

    So inspiring! I am passing this along to my contacts!

  55. Crystal says:

    The most poisonous person I ever worked with pretty much got promoted. She first complained her way into our department, then complained her way into another department, then was trandferred to a higher ranking position to get her out of the building. She is a work producer so she’ll stay as long as a department can stand her absolutely horrific personality.

    BUT, at least she left our department…

  56. Margaret says:

    A quick comment before I head out to work… Haven’t read other comments so accept my apologies if it has already been said.

    1. Great article!

    2. Negativity and criticism of that order tells more about the person doing the criticising than the person being criticised.

    I used to work in a poisonous environment once too and point 2 above played out time and time again.

  57. James says:

    office environments that have a positive upbeat atmosphere are one of a kind. if you find one stick with it because positive things happen to positive people.

  58. SLCCOM says:

    I recall reading about a group of people who got fed up with their boss, wrote a nice resume for him and sent it to headhunters, and got him hired away by another group of suckers…

  59. Bela says:

    Kathy was fired? Seriously? I’m surprised she wasn’t made Trent and Campbell’s supervisor because that’s what usually seems to happen, where a toxic coworker became a toxic boss. It has happened to me more than once, as well as my husband and several friends of mine.
    I seriously think management, in most cases, thinks the best way to deal with people like Kathy is to promote them and give them power over the people they don’t like. That way, they (Kathy types) can do what they want with people they don’t like and management doesn’t have to hear them complain anymore.
    But like Chrystal noted, you can always hope they’ll eventually be promoted out of your life or (like what happened with my former boss) that management will eventually wake up to reality.

  60. Graham says:

    Supremely helpful post. This gave me a reality check that I truly needed. @ Hope D, I had this experience recently, it’s not fun.

  61. Jennifer says:

    In response to post #8 from Hope – you hit the nail on the head. “Don’t let a coworkers [or spouse or neighbor or friend’s] bad behavior change you.” We’ve all complained and we’ve all been the complainer. We’ve all been lazy, a bad communicator, hostile, etc… and we’ve all been on the receiving end as well. No need to throw stones. Just be you. And if you don’t like who “you” are, change.

  62. tentaculistic says:

    I love this article, and love the idea of a world in which karma really does come around.

    Unfortunately this is not the world I work in. I work for the youngest govt agency, where a general govt trend is just magnified and turned into a living parody. The complainers, the poisonous, the backstabbers are often promoted up – whether because that is perceived as decisiveness or because promotion is one of the only methods for an office to get rid of govt workers (who can’t get fired, with very few exceptions). Sadly, even the contractors (who can be fired) who got their karmic come-uppance just moved on to a better-paid job at another company. But then security-cleared folks are a limited commodity.

    The one thing I did notice is that the truly awful people were generally very unhappy at home – divorces, few friends, etc. So maybe you can see the karma as social rather than professional.

    Whatever, I can’t change the way the mini-world I inhabit works, I can only change myself. And not complaining is a very worthy goal. As is throwing in the towel, moving, and getting a new career in a world with rules I can respect better. Scary though.

  63. Charlotte says:

    Fantastic post and one I needed a reminder on. Thank you!

  64. Lola says:

    Great post. I used to be a Kathy. But when I was getting passed over for promotions and when I was getting poor reviews, I started to be honest with myself. I Observed others at work. I started to realize that these people that were getting the promotions and the raises had great attitudes. They never spoke ill of anyone, they always stayed positive and diverted negativity and they always welcomed a challenge. Since I have changed my attitude.

    Since I have changed my attitude, I enjoy going to work. I’m now in my “dream” position. I have earned the respect from my bosses and coworkers. Life is great.

  65. chris says:

    My girlfriend enjoys her job EXCEPT for 1 coworker. This girl is very outgoing AND negative which is a bad combination. She loves to bad mouth people and her conversations usually start with “Don’t you just hate…?” She influences other 2 others in the office and creates a circle of negativety. We went to her birthday party and she only had 1 friend there. Everybody else was a coworker or her boyfriends coworker. She’s only 25 and divorced, no friends, and her boyfriends mother even hates her. I tell my girlfriend to kill her with kindness and karma will ultimately get to her because its already creeping up.

  66. AnnJo says:

    Many years ago, a co-worker I respected pulled me aside one day and said, “Do you realize that every day, when you come in and I say Hi, how are you? you tell me something negative? It’s the horrible traffic, the depressing rain, the fight you had with your boyfriend, how many points the stock market dropped, or the hairball your cat threw up on the rug, but it’s always a downer. As your friend, I’m telling you you need to re-think your attitude toward life. As your co-worker who sees you every day, I’m asking you, from now on, if you still can’t find anything positive to say, then lie to me!” I realized that negativity could be as much a habit as brushing your teeth before bed, and could be broken. I also found that doing the latter (false positivity) was a great help toward doing the former (re-thinking my attitude toward life).

  67. AnnJo (#66)–your comment recalls an experience I had. A co-worker had asked how things were going…i don’t remember now what was going on, but in about two sentences I kind of unloaded some weight. The co-worker responded that it was refreshing to receive an honest answer to ‘how are you doing’ rather than the cliched ‘fine, and you?’ I then felt obligated, every time they asked, to reply brutally honest–even when i didn’t feel like it and would have preferred a “doing good, how bout you?” A few weeks later they recanted, and politely stated that I was being a downer or negative.

    I don’t believe I ever told them, but it was SUCH a relief when I felt like I was no longer beholden to being brutally honest and could merely be polite.

    In these many years since those conversations, I still make a point of answering politely and inquiring politely, but when it’s somebody that is historically ‘negative’ I usually just acknowledge them with a ‘good day’ rather than a ‘how are you’ type of a greeting. Also, when greeting strangers in passing as a polite acknowledgement, I try to be sure to complete the polite intercourse with an appropriate closure like ‘glad to hear it.’

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