15 Ways to Maintain a Positive Career Attitude

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During our webinar, 15 Traits of Top Performers, we received a question around how to remain positive during frustrating professional times. A positive and solution-oriented attitude is a key performance trait peers, managers and customers value, and a consistent negative attitude is a quality which can be toxic to those around you and potentially result in termination if it's excessive. As "positive psychology" and "happiness" enthusiasts, we wanted to share our top tactics for assessing and altering your attitude!


The question posed during our 15 Traits of Top Performers webinar was:

"Do you have any suggestions for keeping a positive attitude for someone who is isolated from the team when all new employees are being hired from the corporate offices many miles away, and all replacements are coming into the corporate office?"

First, a note on working remotely! In a situation where you're working remote, away from your peers, our first recommendation would be to make a case to your boss on the importance of getting more "face time" onsite at the corporate location. Explain the benefits of you spending at least 3-5 days where your peers are located, and then maybe 2-4 scheduled visits throughout the year. This time with your teammates will help increase trust and build a lasting relationship, which will help you develop a better virtual relationship, and impact your collaboration and attitude! At our company, we have many remote teams and several of them employ the concept of virtual teambuilding once a quarter. And in some cases, we are able to have remote teams gather at least once a year for in-person teambuilding. For example, one of the teams we manage has nine people that sit in Richmond, VA and one who sits in CA. We bring her to the corporate office in VA once a year and make sure to do a teambuilding activity every time she's in town. If that's not possible, make a recommendation around adding more video conferences for team members to get to know one another better. Once you feel like you have a solid relationship foundation, it will be much easier to maintain a positive attitude, even from afar, as the strength of your professional relationships is one of the primary determinants of your job satisfaction and attitude!

Top suggestions for staying positive:

1. Continuous reflection on what you appreciate.

Positive psychology studies stress the importance of reflecting on what you like about your job. As part of your morning routine, such as your commute to work or during breakfast, reflect on what you appreciate or what you're excited about that day. Keep a journal and write down 3+ things for 21 days, and see what impact that makes.

2. Build strong and rewarding relationships.

One of the best parts of our job, which very much influences job satisfaction and attitude, are the relationships we have with our peers. As mentioned in our 15 Traits of Top Performers webcast, the strength of your relationships is vital to your satisfaction and therefore attitude, so invest time and energy into making a "social investment" at work to get to know your peers if you're not already!

3. Find the "silver lining."

As we look back at even the most difficult and trying situations we've been in throughout our professional careers, we can identify at least one "silver lining" or "lesson learned." Anytime you encounter a tough scenario, or you make a mistake, ask yourself "what is the silver lining? What could I learn here to ensure I don't find myself in this situation, or make this mistake, again?"

4. Hold yourself accountable.

One of our favorite books on this topic, The Happiness Advantage, discusses how teams do their best work with a ratio of 6:1 positivity:negativity. Use this ratio, or the 80:20 rule, as a personal goal, and strive to achieve internal commentary/reflection and external communication that's at least 80%+ positive! This can be a challenge, but awareness is crucial and there are little things you can do to keep yourself on track. One of us once had a 'Positivity Contest' with our boss, once we recognized how negative we were being during a difficult project. For a week, the other person got a point when we said something negative. That helped with awareness, shifted our mentality, provided a lot of laughs, and enhanced our relationship too!

5. Spread appreciation and gratitude.

What's one of the quickest and easiest ways to get out of a slump? Send a genuine "thank you!" Many of the most positive and happy people we know are continuously saying thanks, sharing appreciation, etc. Some people start off their Monday morning by identifying someone who did something great the week before, and sending them an email to acknowledge it!

6. Start conversations off in a positive manner.

You can influence the attitude and path of the conversation with your first words, as people tend to match the tones and vibes of each other. Per The Energy Bus, the first two minutes of a conversation can positively or negatively influence the mood and energy of others involved. So even if you are in a bad mood, attempt to "fake it until you make it" and begin the conversation with a smile and positive comments!

7. Set and celebrate milestones.

How good are you with recognizing and celebrating your individual, team and group successes? Celebrations when you hit milestones are great motivators, team builders, energizers, etc. Therefore, ensure you have celebration activities planned for major project completions and team milestones!

8. Understand how your work contributes.

Understanding the "purpose" behind your work contributes to a variety of things, including attitude. When you feel yourself getting negative, reflect back on the "big picture" that your work is impacting. Ask yourself "how have my efforts impacted others? The organization? Who have I helped with my work? Why does this work matter?"

9. Make an effort to add more of what you're good at to your responsibilities matrix.

Simply exercising a "signature skill" can be energizing and impact your attitude and satisfaction! Do you have tasks you could ask your boss to do that you enjoy? Ask for them! For example, if you are impacted when you're sharing knowledge and helping develop those around you, offer to be a mentor for the next person who starts or lead a training brown bag lunch!

10. Quick visual of your progress/achievements.

Too often, we're so focused on what we need to do that we forget all the wonderful things we've done! Think about having your own, or a team, Accomplishments / Completion Board. That board can highlight everything you've done at the company which you're proud of, who it impacted, scope/extent of the impact, etc. One of us has a white board where half of it includes all major initiatives and goals for the quarter, and the other half has the key projects/plans that have been implemented.

11. Communicate needs that could influence your attitude.

One of our top performance suggestions was around the concept of open communication, but in the sense of explaining the "success criteria" you need from others in order to be the most effective with your job! If you have specific ideas your boss could support that would contribute to your attitude and professional well-being, such as a quarterly visit to spend time with the people you engage with and support the most, communicate it to your boss as such. For example, "One area I've identified that I could improve on, which would positively influence the success of this project, is the collaboration and cohesion with the project team. Since 90% of the team sits at the corporate location, would it be possible to spend at least 2 days visiting?"

12. Take breaks.

Too often, our attitudes and energy are impacted because we simply don't give our bodies what it needs, breaks and relaxation. Are you checking your email at night and on weekends? Rarely taking time to fully decompress? Taking an actual lunch break? Evaluate your work habits, and see how often you're really disengaging from work to take a much needed break. Remember, if you take measures like turning off your work email for a full weekend or vacation (as long as you're not on call!), you'll be more energized, and likely more positive, once you reengage when you're back in the office!

13. Get enough sleep.

Sleep contributes to body and brain growth/repair and memory consolidation, and is one of the primary contributors to quality health and happiness. If you're not getting enough sleep, you're not allowing your body to re-set and re-charge.

14. Create 'Plans' for yourself.

As in most aspects of your personal and professional life, improvements will happen if you engage in planning efforts. Therefore, if you notice that your attitude could use an adjustment, put together a 'Revitalization Plan' for yourself. About once every 4-6 weeks, one of us recognizes that we need a 'Crash/Me Day,' and we dedicate at least half the day to rest, relaxation, and low key activities that can help minimize stress and put ourselves at ease. "On days when I sense I'm low energy and I need to increase my energy level, I execute on my personal 'Energy Plan,' which consists of drinking a glass of water, then doing reps of an exercise like push-ups and/or jumping jacks, consuming more water, and then potentially 'Phoning/Texting a Friend' for a quick note/conversation to energize myself." One of our teams keeps a fitness hula hoop and weights at the office, and several team members will engage in quick 3-minute work outs twice a day to re-energize themselves! However you want to do it, think about the things that 1.) Energize you/put you in a better mood and 2.) Relax you, and consider formalizing 'Plans' that you can execute on when needed!

Here's an example 'Revitalization Plan':

  • Turn phone off and put away
  • Drink 16 ounces of water
  • Eat a piece of fruit
  • Stretch
  • Go on a 1-hour walk or do yoga
  • Listen to calming music for 30-45 minutes

15. Learn more around attitude and finding happiness.

We have two favorite book recommendations on these topics, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. Both are amazing reads, and provide much more advice on this topic! Also, Shawn Achor paired up with Oprah to do a 2-part training series to a happier life (Part 1) and to inspire happiness around you (Part 2).

Next Steps
  • Remember that displaying a poor attitude can not only be a negative influence to your team/culture, but it can be detrimental to your production and overall work satisfaction, and also potentially derail your career if you're viewed as a "toxic team member!"
  • Therefore, keep a pulse on your attitude by engaging in self-reflection, and take action of some of the ideas mentioned above to give yourself an "attitude adjustment!"
  • Want to improve your leadership and management skills? Consider enrolling in Shawn Achor and Oprah's 2-part workshop as part of your 'Leadership Development Plan!'
  • Read more Career Related tips

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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