Dealing With Negative Energy at Work

08/21/2010 08:41 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Recently, I have talked with several people about their negative experiences at work: bullying supervisors; colleagues set on the main chance without thought or regard for others; a project micro-managed by an executive keen for personal kudos, undermining the value to others.

In an email response to my article last week: Discovering Your Passion, one reader wrote:

My workplace has in the last few years become a rudderless ship, a toxic place with a lot of unhappy people. A place needing love. I have been staying sane the past two years by focusing on my gratitude of having a job! Someone in another division just commented to me this past week that they could sense the vortex of the negative energy and its pull in our library. It was at that point that I realized I've been sucked into that more than I realized and in doing so mindlessly, helping it spin a bit too. I caught myself in that energy, contributing to that energy, repeatedly throughout the week...argh!

If you are in a toxic workplace, what choices do you have? Normally, I would say: get out and find another job. Given that you spend most of your waking day at work, it surely cannot be worth subjecting yourself to the stress and distress of negativity.

However, these days, that may be easier said than done. Jobs in your area may now be fewer. There is a saying: What doesn't kill you will make you stronger.

So what is the opportunity you are being given? What strengths can you build? How can the "dark" times come to serve you? What is their greater purpose for you? How can you be more creative?

A few years ago, I went through a relatively dark time. I say relatively because in the light of the Pakistan floods, nothing I have been through can compare. I used my own time of darkness to turn to the lightness of the spirit within me. It was a daily commitment to focus in ways that enabled me to become truer to myself. Although I did not know it at the time, I was preparing myself for something much better which was to show up later.

Here are a few suggestions that might assist you to lift above any dark times:

1. Gratitude

As with my correspondent above, it helps to be grateful for just what you do have now. Take time each day to count your blessings and focus on them. Do not allow yourself to dwell in the negative, however pervasive it may seem to be.

This interview with 81-year-old Sir John Templeton inspired me last week. It is about 45 minutes long but well worth listening to for his personal philosophy, which includes being grateful as a way of dealing with fear.

2. Recognize your Purpose

Knowing your purpose in it will help give meaning to a challenge. You may be feeling troubled in order to lend encouragement to others. You may be discovering qualities you did not know you had before. You may creatively find new ways of running a project that you had not previously considered. At the very least, you will have a lesson that doubtless will serve you (or someone else) in future. What can you learn?

3. Seek out the Hearteners

You might enjoy being a "good news hound." There are no prizes for finding negativity. There is a lot of it about. There are also wonderful heartening stories that may make you smile and lift your spirits.

This is one such video. An important subject is being addressed, and with beautiful humour.

The Prince's Rainforests Project Awareness Campaign Video

4. Humour

Watch, listen to, read things that make you laugh. Laughter gives you perspective and distance from your challenges. If not laugh, a wry smile. Smiling too can help lift your spirits. Try smiling as you are driving, walking or running.

5. Water

Drink plenty of water during the day. Water has a way of flushing negative emotions out of your system.

6. Nurture yourself

Make your out of work hours nourishing and enriching. Eat healthy food, take up sport or a physical exercise of some kind, meditate and take time for the inner you, have fun with dear friends.

7. Your Dreams

If life has delivered what seems like a dead end, you may have been stopped in your tracks for a good reason. There may be something much better ahead for you that you have yet to fulfill. What dreams have you forgotten, or discarded, that might now be ready for you to pursue?

Commenting on my article, Finding your Personal Motivational Trend, "henryWhatsis" had this to say:

I am very fortunate that I earn money doing something I love. I took a leap of faith and went back to school at 29, even though I didn't have a clue what I wanted to study. I took an intro to programming class, and distinctly remember the day when I was working on my homework, debugging my code, and a thought popped into my head: "Hey, I could do this for a living!" If I could, I would wish this feeling on everyone. I changed my major and have never looked back.

The correspondent mentioned above, tracking the positive subtle shifts now taking place for her, concluded: "the universe is so very cool." I agree.

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
Kahlil Gibran

What makes you laugh -- or smile? In a down time, what do you do to keep up and keep going? Forgotten dreams -- do you have any that you could now realize?

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