How to Handle a
Hostile Work Environment

So you’ve decided to embrace the power of positive thinking. You’ve learned of the paradigm shift a positive outlook can bring about, and you’re ready to bring the change into your life. 

Unfortunately, your coworkers seem to have missed the memo.

Whether your office is experiencing a “case of the Mondays” or worse, it can be deflating and defeating to work in an environment where you’re constantly battling the negative vibes of others.

Now, it is true that people complain and vent at work. It creates a sense of camaraderie and a shared experience. Sometimes it can be an attempt by your coworkers to make small talk or simply connect.

Even if those around you seem to feel very strongly about their negative complaints, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re terrible people or even bad employees. When we’re invested in what we’re doing, we’re going to feel strongly about things. Emotions go into our work and when we’ve poured in our blood, sweat and tears, we can be easily wounded, frustrated or upset simply because it’s so important to us. Our work and our careers can be a big part of our identity and how we see ourselves. This doesn’t make for light emotions.

However, some people just bitch to bitch. It has nothing to do with them feeling strongly about their job or caring too deeply. It’s just that they feel like “harshing your mellow” and raining on your parade. Your positivity might rub them the wrong way or they may simply be someone who hasn’t realized their negative words and thoughts lead to more frustration and sorrow.

The first step in how to handle a hostile work environment is to separate the naysayers and Negative Neds and Nancys from the truly hostile, toxic people. There will always be complainers, and while they might be frustrating and annoying to deal with, they generally aren’t out to make your work environment intolerable.

Dealing with Complainers

When you’re faced with a Dan or Debbie Downer, try to shift the conversation. Focus on having more meaningful interactions with them. Offer to grab a cup of coffee and lend them an ear. Remember conversation is about give and take.

Ask your coworker, “What did you do this weekend? Why was it so great?” Conversely, if they say, “Thank God it’s Friday—this week can’t be over soon enough,” ask them, “What’s been so bad about your week?” Sometimes, when they start to articulate all of their complaints, they’ll have a change of heart. You might hear, “Well, actually it wasn’t so bad, I’m just looking forward to something exciting this weekend.”

Suddenly the conversation has gone from a litany of complaints to a meaningful connection focused on positive activities and excitement about the future.

Try to see the truth in who your co-worker is, and realize they’re a person who wants to be heard and understood. Maybe they just don’t know how to express things in a positive way or they see co-conspiring as a way to build a connection. Find a way to connect beyond the collusion by looking at them a little closer, and listening to what they’re really hoping to say.

Embracing Your Own Positivity

Lead by your example. One of the easiest ways to keep focused on the positive is to BE positive. When someone begins the transformational growth process, they often start with initial bravado and enthusiasm.

Even in a hostile work environment, you don’t have to be “fake” or pretend everything’s great to work on your positive mindset. It’s still okay and even healthy to acknowledge you feel fear, sadness or frustration. Those emotions, while negative, need to be expressed as well.


“When fear is allowed to operate beneath the surface, however, it does the most damage. When people quit things it is often because they fail to acknowledge and deal with their fears so they rationalize instead. Typically, they approach new activities brimming with confidence and even cockiness—generally a sign of someone not listening to their fear. They communicate that they’re ready for anything, be it a new job, new school, or even a marriage—that they have no anxiety about what the process requires of them. As much as their gung-ho attitude provides them with initial positive energy, this energy can easily turn negative. It begins to sound an alarm in their unconscious mind, warning them about taking risks, about trying new activities, about pushing themselves into areas where they aren’t skilled or comfortable.”

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Acknowledge your truth and the spectrum of emotions you might be feeling, but approach experiences as growth and learning opportunities. View each situation as a chance to learn more about yourself and to get closer to your goals and vision. See your fear and harness it rather than avoiding it. Rather than setbacks, look at obstacles as opportunities to reroute and discover even more about yourself.

Dealing with Toxic Coworkers

Even those of us with the most positive intentions will now and again run into people who are just downright toxic. These people, try as you might, just refuse to connect with you, engage or move forward. What’s worse, they might even be thwarting your attempts to grow or do your work. They can make your job downright miserable, and certainly contribute to a hostile work environment.

When you’re dealing with someone who’s truly toxic, don’t be afraid to confront the issue. Surprisingly, sometimes bringing it out on the table and saying, “Look, I feel like you’re angry with me or I’m rubbing you the wrong way. This is what I want to get done and where I’m trying to lead us. Explain what you’re trying to get done and let’s see if we can find a way to get on the same page.”

If they balk at the confrontation or continue to try to sabotage you and throw you under the bus, don’t let your negative coworker throw you off course. Keep your communication with your boss and leadership strong and open. It doesn’t mean you need to “tattle” to your boss, but if a toxic coworker has become more than just an annoyance, there may be formal complaints and other management interventions needed.

In most cases, however, confronting the person and letting them know you’re feeling upset, picked on, bullied or otherwise annoyed with them can help you get things out in the open so they can be addressed. Sometimes they might not even be aware of how bowled over they’re making you feel or how their hostile attitude is affecting you and the team. Bringing it out into the light is the first step to resolving the issue.

Keep your interactions at work focused on the “big picture.” If you steer off course, always bring it back to your personal vision and how it aligns with the vision of the leadership in your organization. Look at the good you’re doing within your workplace and how you’re helping others and making the world a better place. If you can find the good and positive in your job, it will be the silver lining to make each day (even Mondays) better.

For more on how you can move forward in your life with positive intentions, please visit Wright Living. Find out how you can transform yourself and those around you by bringing more light and goodness into the world. Be your best self!


About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright

 

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

The Power of Silence :
Purposeful Passiveness

There’s a great quote from Eastern philosophy: “Silence is the most powerful scream.” We often talk about the importance of expressing ourselves, engaging in conflict and making our presence known—but the purposeful use of silence can also be a powerful tool for getting our message across. 


When we think about someone who projects a powerful stance, expresses their power, and ensures their voice is heard, we typically think of a more…assertive personality and approach.

Perhaps you even think of someone who’s aggressive, domineering, and who yells and speaks loudly. Perhaps an assertive boss comes to mind, or a speaker captivating the room, or an in-law dominating a conversation, or maybe someone who drives and conducts in a meeting.

Power comes from expressing your voice and freely offering your feelings and opinions in life. When we think of power, we think of someone who makes a statement—someone who ensures their voice is heard.

This typical definition of power is one we see in the media and learn about in school, so it becomes an integral part of our psyche. We see “powerful” in media moguls, politicians, and businessmen. We learn that people who are loud and famous get heard.

Consequently, when we’re silent, we feel powerless. When our voice is quieted, we feel dominated and under someone else’s control. We feel like we’ve lost our ability to speak up. Maybe we’re silent to “show them” or to make a point, but in the silence, there’s desperation or a loss of power.

We’ve discussed the danger and even the weakness in giving “the silent treatment” when it comes to our relationships. When we silence our own voice and try to control others by giving them the cold shoulder, we’re actually picking the passive aggressive route. This “hidden middle finger” is unproductive at best, and can be highly damaging and detrimental at its worst. It doesn’t go anywhere, as both sides engage in a standoff, trying to “show” the other just how much they can withhold.


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Yet, on the converse of all of this, there’s another side to being silent.

The Other Side of Silence: Powerful Silence

Have you thought about the concept of passive power? There’s silence and power that attracts, rather than projects. In the Eastern philosophy of yin/yang, this is the feminine vs. masculine concept (although it’s not necessarily gender-related or specific). It’s the power of being open, encompassing and bringing things in rather than pushing them out.

This passive power is often overlooked—and it includes the power of silence.

Active and purposeful silence isn’t about being disengaged or shutting down. It’s about listening. It’s allowing others in the space to respond, and allowing them to talk their way through and reason out their response before jumping to a conclusion. This isn’t silence used to control the space or conversation—this is strategic silence deployed to allow the conversation to blossom and move forward.

Not only does your positive, silent presence make a huge difference in how others feel toward you and how they respond, but research shows it also impacts the quality of information you receive from others. Actively listening, showing interest, and truly hearing and relating to others gives you untold power, plus the ability to share your vision and relate to and learn from others.

When your silence conveys a positive attitude through smiling, nodding, and open body position, people use more interpretive abstract language. They go deeper into the conversation and they share their opinions more openly. If your silent presence is frowning and you appear more closed off, the person or people you’re listening to may tend to be more careful and analytic and only share concrete, descriptive facts.

Have you ever had one of those conversations with a powerful person? Where you feel compelled to keep talking and share, simply because they give you an encouraging “vibe” or let off an aura that just made you want to keep going? You might not have realized it until you walked away, or after the conversation when you had time to reflect. You may have thought, “Wow, why did I just share so much?”

It was because you were in the presence of a powerful listener. You were in the presence of someone who understood that silence is the most powerful scream.

How to Use Silence

So how can you learn to harness the power of silence? Is it simply listening and nodding? Is it just staring at someone while they continue to wax on and on? How do you get your point across, too?

Like all kinds of power, there are times to use silence and times not to use it. Many times, silence is powerful, even when it’s being used passive-aggressively. That’s why giving your partner the cold shoulder or sitting back in a boring meeting and being despondent gets your point of irritation across. Silence always speaks volumes, but not all volumes are productive or responsible. Not only that, but sometimes silence can lead others to simply shut down, ignore you, or decide to withdraw themselves because they’re tired of the standoff.


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So ask yourself in any given situation: “Does my silence create a sense of security, comfort, and affirmation, or lead to a greater sense of self—or is my silence intimidating, punishing, threatening, or withholding? Am I being silent to manipulate, or is my silence creating a space for others to express their yearnings and make their point?”

Many of us might have learned to withhold or suppress our voice while we were growing up. Perhaps your parents used the “silent treatment” to let you know they were hurt or angry with you, or to send the message that your behavior wasn’t acceptable. As adults, this kind of “disapproving parent” silence isn’t a responsible use of power. It doesn’t include an expression of your judgments and feelings directly. It’s simply a way to keep the other side guessing at what they’re doing wrong, with no clear way to resolve it.

Many of us weren’t trained to be a powerful, positive presence with our silence that results in a productive outcome, but fortunately, we can still learn. We’ve learned to talk and to express, but we haven’t learned to use our silence to listen.

Try to intentionally and purposefully use the power of silence in your business meetings and at home. Rather than jumping in to express your opinions and lead the conversation, sit back, actively listen and affirm, but stay silent.

Your silence can be profoundly powerful. Try engaging fully—being present, awake and alive, and in the here-and-now as you interact with others. Harness the power of your silence and experiment with the positive power of your very presence!

 

Learn more about how to engage your empathy and active listening skills at Wrightfoundation.org. Join us at our next More Life Training to learn how to strengthen your relationships and grow within all of your interactions.

 


About the Author

Judith

Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Passive Aggressive Silent
Treatment: How To Break
the Cycle & Free
Your Relationship

Ever been so pissed off at your partner you put up a wall and enforce “the silent treatment”? (…who hasn’t?!) Or, are you sick of being on the receiving end of the cold shoulder?



Or maybe the two of you are BOTH guilty of this type of passive aggressive behavior. It’s time to break the cycle.

You know the drill. Your partner does something that annoys you, so you think to yourself, “I’m so irritated right now. I’ll show him! I’m not going to speak to him until he notices just how wrong he is—and how frustrated I am.” Then you skulk around, huffing and making just enough noise so he notices you’re there and hopefully realizes you’re ticked off.

Or maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of the silent treatment. Half the time, do you even know what you did wrong? Nope! You can usually sense your partner is mad. While they say they don’t want to talk about it, you’re definitely aware they’re upset. So you tiptoe around passive aggressively and wait until one of you finally snaps and says what’s bothering you.

When this type of silent treatment standoff happens, it goes nowhere. The two of you sit there battling it out, unsatisfied and unproductive. The silent treatment is useless. It satisfies neither of you, and it doesn’t result in any positive outcomes.

The silent treatment is like creating a field of landmines. You’re not waging a war. You’re tiptoeing around trying not to trigger any major explosions. It’s like walking on eggshells—and it can really take a toll on your relationship. In fact, it can be even more damaging than cleaning up the aftermath of a healthy fight and productive confrontation.

Navigating on a silent battlefield leads to paranoia, indifference and frustration. It creates greater distance and pushes the two of you further and further apart. You’re never quite sure how to step or where to go, and so eventually you either become anxious or you just stop caring. Neither one is a great outcome. While no relationship is perfect, the silent treatment can damage even the best relationships beyond repair.

Why We Give Each Other the Silent Treatment

So if it’s so bad, why do we do it?! Even more, why have we done it since we were in grade school and why did we see our mothers and fathers give each other the silent middle finger so many times growing up?

Many of us are raised to believe that passive aggressive silent treatment behavior is just part of being a couple.

The root of our propensity toward the passive aggressive silent treatment begins in childhood during the terrible twos. We’re just learning how to exercise our own will and to establish boundaries. We want things and we’re demanding. When we demanded something from our parents, our siblings or a friend, chances are we were probably shot down. We didn’t always get what we wanted. As children, when we don’t get what we want, we establish the belief that people don’t want to please us—a belief that lasts into adulthood.


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What did we do when we didn’t get what we wanted as a two-year-old? We threw a raging temper tantrum, of course! We probably yelled and cried and stomped our feet. Maybe it worked and maybe it didn’t, but we definitely got someone’s attention. We learned that we could stomp our feet to clue someone in to our displeasure. They might not give in, but in a way, we could punish them. It gave us a sense of control.

So with this belief that people didn’t want to give us our way, we learned to give and accept punishment. Flash forward to adulthood and we’re still engaged in the same self-fulfilling prophecy. When our partner doesn’t give us our way, we’re going to punish them by being silent. Then, our partner gets mad that we’re silent, so they punish us—and round and round we go.

It’s an endless cycle:

  1. My partner doesn’t want to please me,
  2. So I act in a displeasing way,
  3. Which causes my partner to believe I’m a jerk,
  4. So my partner acts in a way that doesn’t please me,
  5. Which confirms my belief that my partner doesn’t want to please me.

Sound familiar?

Recognizing the Limiting Beliefs Behind the Silent Punishment

Unfortunately, none of us were blessed with psychic abilities (and if we were, we’d all be lottery winners). Our partners aren’t mind readers, but yet, we hold out and wait for them to do the things we want them to do. We’re afraid to tell them what we want. Then when they don’t do what we want, we punish them for not reading our minds.

Why? It goes back to our limiting beliefs established well before we were even aware. People that come from mind-reading families tend to believe: If you really love me, you would do X. If I have to ask for X, X becomes less worthwhile. It sounds so adolescent and outlandish, but think back to the last time you or your partner gave each other the cold shoulder. It felt pretty juvenile, didn’t it?

Giving your significant other the silent treatment is really a reflection of your own limiting belief that you’re not strong enough to just ask for what you really want without fear of rejection. When you punish your partner, you’re really diminishing yourself. You’re saying you aren’t equal, you’re weak, and you have to resort to passive aggression over confrontation and conflict. Instead of engaging, you’re disengaging and your relationship is paying the price.


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Coming to a Win-Win Outcome: Overcoming the Silent Treatment

So how do we fix this silent minefield we’re battling on? Is it about just letting go of your frustration and irritation?

NO! It’s about embracing what you want, not diminishing it! You need to be able to ask for what you want freely so your partner knows what you want, and then you can make decisions together that make BOTH sides happy! Get to the heart of the fight and embrace the conflict.

When you bristle at something your partner does, like leaving dirty dishes in the sink, teasing you at a party, or not holding your hand in public, get down to the real heart of the issue. What is it you want from your partner? It’s not clean dishes, a better sense of humor, or even a warm hand. It’s respect! It’s appreciation! It’s affection! Those deeper yearnings that counter those limiting beliefs and say, “Yes, I am worthy of respect and I deserve it!”

Articulate your feelings to your partner and let them know what you really want! It takes skills and time to learn how to fully listen to each other and to have productive fights with win-win outcomes, but it can definitely happen! Rather than shutting down, speak up and put it out there on the table. Talk about the situations rather than glossing over them.

Stop Giving Each Other the Silent Treatment – Go For What You Want!

Judith still remembers a moment early on in our relationship when I told her, “I want you to go for everything you want in this relationship—but that doesn’t mean there won’t be times when I’ll want to stop you. So I’m not promising to meet all your wants and needs, but I am saying that, as a ground rule of this relationship, both of us should seek out the fullest satisfaction from each other.”

Many people are more aware of what they don’t want, rather than what they do want. Stop giving each other the silent treatment, and start pleasing each other and going for what you really want in your relationship. Soon, you’ll be battling toward bliss, rather than walking on eggshells.

Learn more by visiting Wright Living. Discover how you can engage, strengthen your relationships, and get more out of your interactions today and every day. You can also join us for our next More Life Training, where you’ll jumpstart your social and emotional intelligence skills and learn how to be your best self!

About the Author

Bob-300x250-1

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.