By Jude Bijou, MA, MFT
When someone brings up a topic at work, such as a new task, proposal, or solution, different workers respond according to their predominant attitude. If you work in an office, everyone already knows what to expect from you, for better or for worse. They identify you with specific attitudes.
Negative stereotyping can damage your career. People will make assumptions about you, give the peachy assignments to others, or refuse to put you on their team. The good news is that unwanted attitude brands are easy to change once you understand where they're coming from.
Here are some common attitude brands and how to transform them.
The Slacker. This person wants to do the minimum to get by--and everyone knows it.
Solution: Laziness is the result of unexpressed sadness. People who are lazy are often secretly afraid of failing, and they struggle with finding a direction. If you're a bit of a slacker, set aside time to get a clear picture of your long-range objectives, and consider how your behavior today and tomorrow contributes to achieving those goals. When you have the urge to be lazy, say to yourself, "I'm doing this for me."
The Passive-Aggressive Person. This person appears to comply with the team's request, then turns around and sabotages others' efforts.
Solution: Often, passive-aggressive people experienced injustices and violations in their past and have pent-up anger and a desire to hurt others as a result. To change this, in a private place like your car, express your anger in a constructive way. For example, you can shake your steering wheel and yell "I feel so mad!" Getting that trapped anger out of your body will help you be part of the team and feel more connected to your coworkers. Practice acting in compassionate ways toward others, apologize for unkind words and actions, and focus on your work goal.
The Gossiper. This is a person no one trusts because they will smile one minute and in the next talk about others behind their back.
Solution: Gossip is really just a nice word for condemnation, envy, and accusation. In other words, it's not an innocent pastime. The price you pay for your disloyalty and finding fault with others is feeling alienated and separate from your peers. The good news is that you brought this on yourself, and can reverse it. When you feel the urge to put someone down, stop before you speak and ask yourself whom you're talking about. While it's fine to talk about yourself because that's your true domain, if you're talking negatively about others, you're out of your territory. Stop and remind yourself, "My focus is myself. My job is to take care of myself."
The "No" Person. This is the person who instantly challenges or finds fault with any new idea.
Solution: Chronic negativity comes from an aversion to change, a dislike of being told what to do, or a desire to stay in control. Practice nodding, staying quiet, and letting someone else respond before you do. Recognize your impulse to jump in and say no. Instead, listen carefully and then express at least a willingness to consider it. If it's really difficult to swallow, ask the person if you could have an hour to think about it so you can formulate a more informed response.
The Run-with-It Person. This is an impulsive person who is ready to change directions on a dime, but not necessarily ready to think it through.
Solution: Recognize that your knee-jerk reaction is based in fear or anxiety, and being impulsive has consequences. Sometimes we run with an idea because it feels better to be in control. Slow yourself down. Consider and evaluate your ideas before jumping in a new direction. Pick it apart, on your own time and in private, so you can see and understand all the implications. If it's worthwhile, you can then present your idea with calmness, confidence, and reliability.
The Evangelist. This is the person who thinks his or her ideas cannot possibly be questioned.
Solution: This attitude brand has its roots in anger and an out-of-control ego. Being opinionated to the point of leveling everyone around you is a sign that you have pent-up anger you haven't dealt with. Recognize it's your pattern, and you are alienating your coworkers. Everyone wants to be listened to and valued. If you want others to listen to your worthy ideas, listen more and recognize that other people have important ideas worth considering.
The Rebel. This is the person who digs his heels in and refuses to conform or cooperate when they don't like what's going on.
Solution: Chronic nonconformity is a combination of a desire to control and frustration at not getting your way. Look to appreciate the contributions of others and find value in building a better plan together. Accept that "People and things are the way they are, not the way you think they should be," and realize you'll feel more connected to others and life will be more rewarding if you learn to be a team player.
The Pot-Stirrer. These folks use rumors or innuendo to pit coworkers or work teams against each other for their own entertainment.
Solution: In order to enjoy your working experience and have co-workers who consider you a friend, put your energy into helping out and making relationships better. Resist the impulse to get your jollies at the expense of others, and praise accomplishments.
Want to find out more about attitudes and reactions that may be curtailing your workplace relationships? Take a quick self-quiz here, and then try the coping strategies designed to address them.
Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a psychotherapist, professional educator, and consultant. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life (©2014, Riviera Press). She can be reached through her website at www.attitudereconstruction.com.