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How to Keep Motivated in a Negative Workplace

Do you work in a place where your co-workers are low-energy and negative? Does the environment have a culture of punitive measures rather than embracing development and coaching? Are your co-workers overly competitive and cut-throat? Does your boss manage by intimidation tactics?

I have some real first-hand knowledge on how to keep motivated in a negative workplace as I once worked at a job with all of the above!

This employer had an environment so toxic that I cried in my car driving home every single day. I carried home stress, lost sleep, and dreaded the alarm clock every morning. It paid pretty well, and I couldn’t afford to leave it at that time.

After several months, I mastered the trick of going to work, getting my job done effectively, and keeping professional and friendly with my co-workers while keeping their bad attitudes an arm’s length away.

Unfortunately, many workers face this very same challenge. Here are 10 coping strategies.

1. Read Motivational Quotes

Read motivational quotes when work gets you down. The chances are that you need your job– at least until you can find a better one. Quitting isn’t an option, and it isn’t in your nature! Keep that positive outlook. Read positive thoughts when it’s becoming challenging to think them for yourself. This will get you back on track quickly.

2. Visualization Techniques

When you feel like you’ve just had enough of the situation, try some visualization techniques.

Close your eyes. Tune out your co-workers. Imagine yourself at your favorite vacation destination, with your favorite person in the world. In your mind, set this scene to your favorite music. Hold the vision for just a couple of minutes.

This short exercise is often enough to reset your frame of mind for whatever work task lies ahead of you. It takes some practice but is effective.

3. Create a Visually Positive Space

When you’re in your darkest moments at work, it will be helpful to see visual reminders of why you come to work every day. Perhaps you work to provide a roof over your children’s head or to pay for an upcoming wedding. Hang a couple photos of your loved ones in your cubicle or on your desk.

Print off a couple of motivational quotes you love and hang them up, too. Add colorful touches of your favorite color in some fun desk accessories to boost your spirits when work gets you down. Anything that you can do to make your space visually positive will help you work through the day!

4. Set Your Own Goals

Negative workplaces often discourage workers from developing a clear career path to help you rise from the ranks. Goal-setting is essential for your professional development. Take charge of your career and set your own personal career goals. This will help you prove to yourself that you are worthy of a promotion, the money you make, or even a new job.

Don’t let anyone hold you back from achieving your career goals!

5. Eat Lunch Outside

When weather permits, eat lunch outside of your workplace. A park bench does nicely in nice weather. Take time to be mindful of the surroundings, sights, and sounds of the outdoors. Appreciate the beauty of nature around you. Savor your lunch. Enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

This will help to give you a mid-day recharge that you need more than you know. Invite a trusted co-worker to join you–with one caveat. There’s no work talk or complaining! You will both return for the afternoon with a clear mind and refreshed to tackle your workload.

6. Get Some Exercise

After you’ve enjoyed that al fresco lunch, take a brisk walk.

The anger and frustration that builds in a negative workplace manifests as negative energy that builds up in you. Exercise burns off this negative energy. As you are walking, you’ll be able to feel the negativity melt away from your body.

If you’re having a really rough day, take a quick five-minute walk for a quick break and some additional stress release.

7. Stick to the Facts

The worst part of coping with a negative work environment is that the negative vibe is bred from the top down. You will need to deal with supervisors and managers who somehow seem to thrive in this toxic pool.

When dealing with your co-workers or managers, relay only factual information. Don’t share speculations or opinions unless you’re asked. Sadly, opinions will more than likely open you to even harsher criticism.

8. Excuse Yourself Often

When water cooler talk turns negative, excuse yourself. If you walk into the breakroom and everyone’s complaining, excuse yourself. Give yourself permission to excuse yourself politely and gracefully exit the scene before you get drawn into conversations that can cause you anxiety or even cause professional conflicts. You don’t need to be part of these discussions. They can only lead to more hard feelings.

9. Learn the Law of Attraction

Learn how to harness the Law of Attraction. This states that when you believe in, plan for, and expect a positive outcome, that’s when you’ll achieve success. Conversely, when you get trapped in a murky sea of negative expectations, you will remain there.

Don’t allow yourself to get dragged down into office politics and negativity. Instead, be the person that others flock to when they crave positivity and success in this harsh workplace.
It takes time and dedication to learn to harness the Law of Attraction. Once you do, it’s a game-changer!

10. Craft an Exit Plan

When it comes down to it, you might be in a situation where you’ve tried all of these but are still miserable every day. It’s time to craft an exit plan without destroying your career.

Weigh all your options. Ask yourself some hard questions.

  • Can you change your finances, so you can settle for a lower-paying job you love?
  • Do you have vacation time you can use to launch a full-fledged job search?
  • Can friends (outside of this job) refer you to someone who is hiring?
  • Is self-employment an option in your field?

The bottom line is that it may be time to move on from this job. Only you will know when it’s time. You unwittingly got yourself into this job, so you need to find a way to move on without it becoming a ding on your resume.

Once you’ve found that new job, give a proper notice, complete your final assignments, keep open lines of communication, and remain polite and professional so you can use this employer as a job reference.


For those of you who are wondering, I did leave that negative employer. My husband received an out-of-state job offer. We moved and tightened up our budget until I found a job in our new community. Additionally, I used that time between jobs to start my freelance writing business.

While the memories of the toxic employer are still there, the lessons I learned are invaluable. All in all, I survived it unscathed by using these coping techniques. In the end, you only win by retaining your own positive energy to keep motivated in a negative workplace.

Author Bio: Deborah Tayloe is a professional copywriter. She’s a contributing writer with EmailMeForm, a team of positive, fun, and talented people who are not the subject matter of this article!