Positive Change in the Workplace

Turn the Negative Into the Positive

In Emergency Services – as in any work place – sometimes negativity creeps in until it becomes the all too familiar norm as the day-to-day begins to wear on everyone.

Sometimes Negativity just shows up in its rumpled uniform, a little bit late for shift change, shoelaces untied, already complaining as it comes in from the parking lot. It is perfectly normal to be temporarily unhappy about bad stuff that happens at work, but Negativity doesn’t wait for that. Negativity will complain about stuff that MIGHT happen or is still going on about stuff that happened 3 weeks ago. And while nobody wants to work with Negativity, like a Zombie infecting others with just one bite, Negativity can spread quickly through otherwise perfectly healthy individuals until people are practically making things up to be sad, mad or bad about.

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So how do I stop it?

It may feel daunting, but you are the one with the power to flip that switch from negative to positive, making work a better place for everyone

But change isn’t so easy!

Maybe you’ve heard Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “Be the Change you wish to see in this world”. Sometimes difficult problems demand simple (but not necessarily easy) solutions.

 “Be the Change you wish to see in this world”

Instead of being aggravated, take a deep breath and decide that you can DO something about it.  Be the change. Be the change you wish to see in your crew room…ambulance…ladder truck…staff meeting…you name it.

Can YOU be positive and see the silver lining? Instead of chiming in to gripe with the best of them (or silently griping to yourself about all of the griping) show your coworkers how it’s done.

Should we just put on a brave face and pretend the bad things don’t exist?

No way. But sometimes a group gripe session can make the little things that would otherwise roll right off your back seem gigantic. When the negativity tornado begins to swirl, be the anchor of real-world perspective that others can hold on to. “Yeah, I don’t want to have to work on Christmas, but it IS part of the job and what other job gets little kids to run to the curb and cheer you on every day you go to work?”

When you start you may feel that you are alone, but call-by-call and day-by-day, if you come to work with the right attitude you’ll see people begin to regard you with gratitude. You’ll be the person that people want to be around, the partner people want to work with. You don’t have to pretend the whole world is rosy, but by letting the positive workplace atmosphere start with you, you’ll set a standard that will be seen and attract others. It may not change the culture of your entire service, but it will have a ripple effect.

Your positivity will often affect those around you much more than you realize, especially the new people.

Find the seed of truth the negativity is based on and turn it around.  The new hire can’t take a decent blood pressure?  While others complain about it, you sit down and work with them until they get it right.  The partner everyone jokingly calls ‘the Navigator” because he can’t find main street in a one stoplight town really is map impaired? Drive around with him between calls identifying prominent landmarks until he’s comfortable.  You won’t solve every issue at work in one shift, but a little effort each day goes a long way not only for you but for everybody.

It’s a strange thing, but an organization’s culture (and attitude) both defines and is defined by its employees. The bad news is that maybe you got hired into or joined an organization with attitude issues, or maybe things changed for the worse while you weren’t looking. The good news is, it really does only take one person to start turning things around. People gather to the positive influence.

BE the change.

Need more incentive? On a personal level, you’ll learn the habit of being the provider (or employee, mentor or leader) you want to be. You will grow used to being pleasant as you work, and it will become second nature.  And for those who look up to you, who work near you, they will begin to acquire this nature too.

When you do this, it’s you exercising the power that you do have to affect change in the seemingly unchangeable. 

By Elizabeth Duckworth

Elizabeth Duckworth is the senior editor of Rescue Digest. An accomplished writer and editor, Elizabeth has written extensively in the fields of healthcare, emergency services and education. She is the founder and director of education for the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine.

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