3 Ways to Turn Negativity into Positivity on the Job

image of respiratory therapist smiling at camera

The Oxford Dictionary defines negativity as “a tendency to consider only the bad side of something or someone” and “a lack of enthusiasm or hope.”

We’ve all encountered that kind of behavior, but when it takes hold in the workplace, it can be tough to overcome. Respiratory care departments are not immune, and sometimes all it takes for a department to be deemed a “toxic work environment” are one or two staff members who constantly find the bad side of everything.

What can you do to counteract the negativity you may see in your own department? Consider these three tips —

  • Break the chain: Negativity breeds more negativity, and it is easy to get caught up in all the drama when so many other staff members may be on board with it. But you don’t have to. Instead, think about how you can be the one to break the cycle. It can be as simple as offering a countering view when someone expresses a negative thought.

For example: If a colleague says, “The scheduling in this department is so unfair. I haven’t had a weekend off in a month,” instead of saying, “Yeah, me either,” you might say, “I know, but we are down three therapists right now, so I think our manager is really doing the best she can to ensure there are enough RTs to cover the patient load.”

  • Celebrate victories, big and small: There are negative aspects of just about any department (too many hours, too few hours, overloaded patient schedules, that mean doctor who won’t listen to a thing an RT says, etc.) but no department is totally devoid of positive aspects. Make a list of the good things your department is doing or has done and celebrate them with your fellow staff members.

For example: You just got some exciting new ventilators in the ICU — Yay! Your department offers free continuing education staff members can use to meet state licensure requirements — Yay! Your manager treated the whole department to pizza during the last team meeting — Yay!

  • Remember why you’re here: When the negativity gets to be too much, experts say the best thing to do is just walk away from the conversation. The good news for RTs is, you have something you can walk towards that will remind you why you became an RT in the first place — your patients. Regardless of what kind of drama is unfolding in your department, the people in the beds still need you to be the best therapist you can possibly be. So focus on them and their needs and let the rest of it go.

For example: You sit down for a quick break with two coworkers only to find they are hotly contesting a new department policy. You can stay and listen, or you can say to yourself, “Mr. Jones in 205 was having a hard time keeping his oxygen on earlier. I think I’ll just go check on him — and I’ll grab him one of those green Jello’s he likes on the way.” You’ll feel your blood pressure go down the minute you get up to leave.

It would be impossible to erase all the negativity in any RT department, but as these tips show, there are ways to minimize its impact not only on the department itself, but on you and your own personal wellbeing as well. Give them a try the next time you feel overwhelmed by the naysayers around you.

If you have a great story to tell about your career, consider submitting it for publication in the AARC’s Career News newsletter. Email Debbie Bunch at bunch@aarc.org with your story, or for more information about the submission process.

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