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How to Have a Positive Attitude at Work (While Still Being Yourself)

This article is the fifth in a 10-part series on the topic of overcoming career-limiting habits.

My former co-worker (let’s call her “Ruth”) always saw the negative in everything. When an idea was presented, she was the first one to say, “That won’t work.” Fair enough. But she never offered alternatives. She never looked for solutions. She never, ever gave anything or anyone the benefit of the doubt. Ruth was an absolute nightmare to work with.

I understand that some people are just naturally more positive than others. And I truly believe that every operation works best when there are a wide variety of personalities in the mix. But negativity for its own sake rarely serves a purpose. And people who can’t demonstrate a positive “can do” attitude in the workplace are truly damaging their career future.

In a recent survey, negative attitude was listed as the fifth most common career limiting habit. Not surprising. Who wants to work with a sour puss? What company wants to reward (i.e., promote) that kind of behavior? Negative people, at best, stay put. At worst, they’re shown the door.

Why Attitude Matters

You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? I’m just being honest. I have to voice my opinions and be myself. I don’t do the fake stuff.”

That’s fine. No one’s asking you to fake it…much. The workplace is a living, breathing organism and everyone impacts it. Your negative attitude can bring down the entire thing. It’s as contagious as an airborne virus.

Now, let me also be clear: Voicing a dissenting opinion, speaking assertively and saying “no” are not inherently negative. You can—and should—embrace your individuality and your professional power. But your delivery has a huge impact. Done in the wrong way, these things can certainly appear negative.

There are, however, a few simple strategies to keep in mind that will help you demonstrate a positive attitude, while still being yourself in the workplace:


It’s amazing how powerful a smile can be. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to smile regularly throughout the day. Others will respond to you more favorably and you’ll naturally feel more positive.

Seek Solutions

Negative people see obstacles. Positive people look for solutions. Instead of pointing out a challenge and waving the white flag of surrender, approach it like a puzzle. How can we turn the situation around? How can we fix the problem? How can we make this work? It’s fine to be skeptical, but bring your own ideas to the table as well.

Remain Professional

Negativity comes from a place of emotion: Frustration, anger, disappointment, etc. Do your best to set these feelings aside. The workplace is a professional environment—it’s your responsibility to act professionally. That means using tact and diplomacy, stating facts before feelings, and finding ways to get the job done—even when it’s uncomfortable.

Respect the Team

Negativity sucks the energy from those around you. Give your team members the respect they deserve. Even if you aren’t feeling particularly positive, focus on the bigger picture. You’re a part of the team and your attitude matters. A little effort goes a long way.

Negativity is like a boomerang: It always comes back to you. Likewise, the more you project a positive attitude, the more positivity will come your way. You don’t have to pretend to be someone else. Just recognize the powerful force that is your attitude, and use it to your advantage.

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17 Responses to “How to Have a Positive Attitude at Work (While Still Being Yourself)”

  1. Kiesha Petersen says:

    Thank you for this very useful information. The Commercial World is a tuff one; so your articles are very much appreciated.

  2. Blue says:

    Great article

  3. sushu says:

    Thanks for telling about positive attitude.
    it is very usefull to all :)

  4. shoaib says:

    Its a nice and valuable information :)

  5. Star says:

    thank you for this very helpful blog. I am currently preparing for the attitude bringing up discussion that will take place today… this helped me alot..

  6. tom says:

    Excellent tid bit of useful information to start my day. I read somewhere that we will naturally and sub conciously think hundreds of negative thoughts before we think one positive. Conversely we naturally think almost no positive thoughts unless we can link them to positive experiences. Ie. That white slime looks aweful but, mayonaise tastes good on BLT.
    So, we must conciously rework our natural tendency toward the negative to continuously devise positive thoughts and positive outcome. Ie lots of people like white slime, mayonaise is good!

  7. […] How to Have a Positive Attitude at Work (While Still Being Yourself) […]

  8. Reeya says:

    Wow. Great article. Thank you

  9. rajnish tiwari says:

    i read i feel it is very good to learn something to ahead ourselfs.

  10. rajnish tiwari says:

    i was feeling some negative but when i read i am looking only for positive..

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  12. Chris says:

    I needed to read this before going back to work tonight. I’ve been off for two weeks and sort of dred the negative impact at work that sometimes causes us to not talk to one another. The night shift can be very hard. Especially when your boss expects 3 guys to finish a 14 skid load that is 8 feet tall per skid and 10 long aisles of grocery to fill. Finish 13 and a half and that not being good enough. No matter what we do or try he is never happy. I left work almost butting heads with another team mate. But as soon as I read this… I know I must go in positive and do what I need to do to maintain a positive attitude. We are alllll tired. not just me. So I need to be positive. Ill try my best. I even need to be more open minded and take in others ideas and think from their perspective. Thank you. Even though i go in with anxiety ill try my best to maintain positivity

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  14. michael says:

    When I go in to work with a can do positive attitude and follow company policies and procedures ..I then get told by staff “you’re being pedantic ..only doing this to be teachers pet … You just being a know it all .” When suggesting ideas to improve on ways to do things I get back..” only want to do it your way .. ” when I listen to others ideas take on board their thoughts ..I get ” you not as good as you think you are now are you ..”
    I feel like I can’t win ..if I do what employer wants Im out of touch with workforce …if I go along with colleagues I’m out of favour with colleagues.. all this has led me to now be a nervous wreck ..not daring to say suggest ideas or give comments opinions based on years of experience at the job
    Being a can do positive person can also lead you to being isolated withdrawn rejected as a work colleague just as much as being welcomed as one too

  15. Mei says:

    whoah this weblog is great i really like reading your posts.
    Stay up the great work! You recognize, a lot of people are hunting around
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  16. Annabelle says:

    I read the passive-aggressive one before this, but it is a bit all to simple. If the work environment is already very toxic, nothing you say or do can make it much better. Where I worked, my opinions mattered not, my ideas were stupid, I was slow and incapable. They wanted quick, fast labour in a warehouse, yet wanted 100% accuracy at all times—not even possible to have 100% accuracy when endangering yourself to work faster—plus you mess up more. Than they expect you to just “tell so and so to do something for you” as if that person is only an errand boy on my command, and as if I wear a badge stating I have any sort of authority whatsoever.
    Complaining was all we could do to feel both connected, safe around each other to a point (because we felt bullied and alone), and often I admit I coulda been more positive—but I did things no questions asked many times, and was far too helpful some days.

    The new store boss was abusive, no way to reason with her–the other managers spoke words, but many could hardly care about improving as a store unless it meant $$$$-zero social responsibility, absolutely zero morality–they even back-talked and made fun of their employees and joked after I saw one girl get a concussion!
    . She finds ALL reasons not in her mind an excuse, in which you aint good enough for her eyes to look at. she WILL push you to quit, as I have done—-I had anxiety so bad, my chest was heavy before I got into the store every day—-so paranoid, I couldn’t think straight–couldnt relax. I was a time-bomb before my mental health got worse—and so I quit after being threatened one more time. I decided to leave 3 years of abuse behind and start new. I am SO much happier, oh, you have no idea. I get on my savings right now….and I admit it: I would give up some prospect of riches and be a part-time housewife with a passion-based job…I don’t care about being a millionaire…I just want to be content and not die from anxiety attacks.

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