Carrying on with a positive attitude at work isn’t always easy. The challenges of your job can often weigh on your mind and you lose sight of things that make you happy. But the harsh reality is that a negative attitude can stifle your career growth. Fortunately, there are many ways you can improve your attitude and subsequently benefit your career.

Why Have a Positive Attitude at Work?

The benefits of thinking positively are well documented. A positive attitude can lessen the effects of stress on your mind and body and improve communication with the people around you. There are also other possible benefits including:

  • An improved immune system (less time being sick!)
  • Less irritability
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Reduced feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Improved standing with your peers

If these benefits are not enough, you should know that positive people are more likely to be promoted faster and paid more. So from a career standpoint, there is plenty of incentive.

It would be convenient if you could flip a switch and suddenly your attitude was perfectly in tune. Unfortunately, this is not how life works, and there is no magic that make this happen. Instead, it will take mental discipline and mindfulness to truly change.

So how does one get started down the path of positive thinking? It’s helpful if you start by considering your circumstances.

Recognize What is Getting You Down

What's getting you down?

Are you feeling burned out, overwhelmed, unappreciated, or undervalued? There’s no shame in admitting these feelings to yourself, and this isn’t necessarily a reflection of your shortcomings. So, start by engaging in some honest to goodness self-reflection.

External factors can certainly play a factor in your mental well-being, so it’s not far-fetched to imagine that your job is bringing you down. And you may be experiencing some of the following:

  • Poor managerial leadership
  • Ineffective communication
  • An unmanageable workload
  • Toxic co-workers
  • Lack of work-life balance

Any of these situations are mentally draining and can lead you to job burnout.

If necessary, you should raise these concerns with your manager or HR department, especially if any form of harassment is involved. With that said, no workplace is perfect, and it will still be incumbent upon you to find ways to manage your stress levels and maintain a positive attitude.

Please note that this post is intended to provide generalized information on how to manage your attitude at work. I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. If you feel you are experiencing mental health related issues, you should seek out the services of a mental health professional.

Be Mindful During Personal Interactions

Be respectful during workplace interactions

You probably interact with people on a daily basis at your job. Each interaction presents an opportunity to shape how you are perceived and affects your success within the office. That is why it is critically important to consider what you say and how it will be received.

Consider the Words You Use

Passive wording can make you appear weak and unambitious, while aggressive wording can make you seem difficult and overbearing. So be mindful of the words you use and consider positive phrasing.

Review the following examples and think about the things you tend to say:

Instead of Saying…Consider Saying…
I will try to have this done by Friday.So long as there are no unforeseen challenges, we will have this done by Friday.
How do you expect me to get that done if you don’t give me all the details?We unfortunately did not have the information we needed to get this job completed. In the future, could we have a meeting up front to go over all the details?
I have no work-life balance and you are demanding too much of me.Lately, work has been more demanding and I’m feeling mentally exhausted. Could we please discuss whether there is a way to reduce my workload?

You’ll notice a shift from self-centric wording (I and you) to a team focused approach (we). There is also a framework wherein you lay out the problem and follow it up with a request to help resolve the issue (if necessary).

Taking this approach shows you are a team player and are willing to help solve problems. It’s also important to maintain a respectful tone to avoid making people defensive. Coming across as contentious could potentially create conflict, whereas developing a mutual understanding is in your best interests.

Express Gratitude

Studies have shown that a grateful mindset is strongly correlated with happiness and improved overall well-being, which is important when trying to develop a positive attitude at work. The power of expressing gratitude is nothing new, but it is often overlooked or forgotten as a valuable tool.

Expressing gratitude comes in many forms, and this can include thanking people directly, keeping a gratitude journal, mentally thanking someone, or writing down a list of things you are grateful for. All of these actions will increase the dopamine levels in your brain and improve your mood.

You should be selective when thanking people so you don’t come across as insincere and cause people to question your motives. Some things you can thank someone for include helping you out, doing a great job, coming through on a deadline, or for being a great coworker.

Be Complimentary

Complimenting someone on their work ethic, performance, and/or attitude can go a long way toward fostering a positive work environment. And the great thing about compliments is that they don’t cost anything!

The nice thing about compliments is that they make both the giver and the receiver feel good. So not only are you lifting the spirits of someone else, you can lift your own spirits as well. And all this for a very simple action!

Similarly, with expressions of gratitude, you should use discretion and consider how your compliment may be received. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you would feel comfortable giving the person the compliment in front of a room full of people or your manager.

It should also go without saying that you should avoid any compliments that may be construed as racist or sexist. If you are unsure how a compliment may be received, it is best to reach out to your HR department for further guidance.

Avoid Microaggressions

Microaggressions have received more attention lately. As companies look to boost their diversity initiatives and protect employees from discriminatory practices, this toxic behavior has become a point of emphasis.

A microaggression could include a compliment or joking remark directed at a person that contains an underlying insult about the person’s race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or physical traits.

A microaggression may be intended to be complimentary, however it can be damaging to the confidence of the recipient and create a toxic work environment. It will also represent you as someone who is out of touch, ignorant, and a risk to the company.

If you’d like to learn more about microaggressions, Business Insider has published a very informative article that is sure to improve your understanding.

Changes in your Daily Life

Taking the stairs at work is a good moderate intensity workout that can help your positive attitude at work

Improving your personal interactions at work will go a long way toward helping you maintain a positive attitude. But there may be other areas of your life that you could possibly make changes.


Odds are that you’re working a desk job, and you may not be getting enough physical activity. Lack of adequate physical activity has been shown to have detrimental effects on not only your health, but also your mental well-being.

If you struggle to find time to make it to the gym, you should understand that you don’t need to spend an hour or two every day working yourself to the point of exhaustion in order to see the benefits. In fact, the CDC says that you should get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

The mental benefits of exercise are well stated and can help you maintain a positive mindset. So, this is certainly an area you could explore for improvement. See our post about Sedentary Work for some helpful suggestions.


Meditation has been shown to improve willpower and mental discipline, which is important for managing your daily challenges. Additionally, meditation can clear your mind and improve your mood. So, this is a useful exercise that will help you keep a positive attitude.

To meditate, you should start with the following steps:

  1. Find a quiet area to lie down or sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed
  2. Focus on your breathing and consider how your body is affected
  3. As thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge their presence and the feelings that they bring, and then let them slip away as you return your focus to your breathing

You can start meditating a few minutes at a time and work your way up. Generally speaking, 20 minutes of meditation a day should be sufficient, and this can be broken up into different sessions if it works better with your schedule.

Don’t be worried if you’re no good at this when you first start out. You’re building mental discipline and this will take some practice. So keep at it, and eventually you’ll get it figured out.

Quiet the Noise

If you’re consuming social media and news on a daily basis, this can cause you to have feelings of anxiety, depression, and inadequacy. To make matters worse, social media and news media are designed to keep you glued in. So, you may find yourself stuck in a continuing cycle of negativity and pessimism that will bring you down and sour your attitude.

You could start by unfollowing people who constantly post negative or divisive opinions. If inflammatory statements are causing you to feel disgust, anger, or shock, then you are essentially allowing someone else to control your feelings. Furthermore, trying to change someone’s opinion takes a ton of work, so your energy is better spent elsewhere.

The 24-hour negative news cycle has a lot of us hooked and it’s easier than ever to keep up on the current events of the world. However, the majority of news stories have little to do with you, and there is likely no way you can help the reported situation. So again, you are wasting energy on fretting over something by which you have no control.

If you are interested in the issues of the day, you are better served with reading books or watching documentaries. And if something really is important, you are likely to hear it from someone else. At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to cut back on the news and social media.

Review Your Daily Schedule

Perhaps you are finding that you don’t have enough time to finish all your tasks and your workload continues to stack up. This may leave you feeling overwhelmed and perhaps a bit hopeless.

Instead of letting your day run you, consider making some changes to shape your day. This will take some time and consideration, but the benefits will be worth it. A good place to start is with our post on Time Blocking. My friend David also has a free workbook you can grab to help get you going.

An obvious challenge here is that your company has a schedule too, so it may be worth talking to your manager if you need some concessions made on your schedule. In any case, it’s important that your day belongs to you.

Is Your Job Right for You?

Sometimes it's worth looking into your options

It’s possible that you’ll make all the changes in the world to maintain a positive attitude at work and still not feel like the poster child of positivity. If your workplace continues to maintain a toxic culture that is a constant source of stress and anxiety, then it may be time to look at your options.

There is no shame in job hopping these days, and you may end up in a better place with forward thinking management. So, don’t allow yourself to be trapped in a toxic job under delusions of loyalty, pride, or obligation. Your mental health is incredibly important, and it’s not worth sacrificing prime years of your life for a job that is not helping you achieve your goals.

Final Thoughts

Having a good attitude at work is not about making yourself more palatable for the sake of pleasing others. It’s about maintaining respect for yourself and for your co-workers while keeping a good mental state.

If you want to succeed in your career, there will be times when you need to rely on others to help you along. So, a positive attitude at work is one way that you can endear yourself to the people who will eventually advocate for you.

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