Overcoming Negativity in the Workplace

Dealing with negativity in a group or from an individual can be a challenge to navigate. While no one can control another’s behavior, we can set the tone through our actions, words, and energy.

Cherine Spagnolo reflects on her over 24 years at IBM, and shares how she has recognized that enthusiasm plays a substantial role in overcoming difficult situations in all facets of her life; it’s contagious!

By Cherine Spagnolo


Do Not Take It Personally

When I encounter negativity, I never take it personally but rather, try to put myself in that person’s shoes, asking myself “What’s made them feel this way”?  Often times I realize they just don’t feel heard or valued.  As a society I think we tend to look at other people’s successes and wins and we create this image in our head of how success should look.  When these arbitrary criteria are not met, people can feel undervalued and carry a negative tone with them.  The truth is, professional triumph is different for everyone.  Through the years, I’ve tried to offer an unassuming judgement-free zone to help foster collaboration in an open and respectful way to help diffuse situations like this.

Take Time to Listen

The most success I’ve found in setting a positive tone is to listen – really listen – to what’s being said and, at times, not being said. After you have assessed what’s being communicated, find a way to make the other person know that they have been heard, and that their idea is important and of value.  We can recognize the importance of an idea without having to implement each suggestion.

Learn to Relate with Your Peers

I recently joined a call with a Business Partner, and before we started to discuss the agenda, they asked every person on the call to respond to this question:  If you were given an unexpected extra hour in your day how would you spend it?  It was a relatable question for everyone on the call that forced us to stop multi-tasking and really relate to each other.

Find Opportunity Where Others Do Not

By looking at negative behaviors and attitudes as opportunities, we can change a group’s dynamic by injecting our own passion and enthusiasm into a situation.  Now instead of dreading to face issues, we can maintain our own positive attitude and propagate our own joy into the group. Enthusiasm and positive attitudes can spread quickly – improving performance and increasing productivity!

Build Trust

Consistent trust and resiliency are other cornerstones in building positive energy. Without trust you can’t influence positive change. Taking action to build trust will increase comfort levels and strengthen relationships.  Building trust happens over time, every day is an opportunity to influence positive change in ourselves and those around us.

Photo credit: Positivelifetips.com

My hope is this blog will reignite your passion to bring positive energy to your colleagues and those around you.

Never underestimate the power of enthusiasm & passion it is contagious – pass it on!

 Cherine works with the IBM Ecosystem Strategy team, providing Industry Analytics Solutions

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3 thoughts

  1. I found this Cherine Spagnolo’s post really useful. Not only for the workplace but also life in general.

    Listening carefully is a must for a good communication and, in my opinion, we need to do an extra effort when we are interacting with people from a different culture or who speaks a different first language, because we are more prone to misunderstandings.

    Making sure to give the correct signals of our attention and appreciation for other’s ideas is a good way to build better connections and make our team work happier and being more productive.

    We have to be aware that each interaction is a new opportunity to influence and positively inspire people around us and, as Mrs Nabanita Khan says, even someone out there in society.

    I will definitely try to remember and apply each of her suggestions. Thank you very much!


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