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Swap Your Bad Attitude for Positive Thinking to Get Ahead at Work

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A little water-cooler gossip never hurt anyone, right? Well, according to new research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, we’d all probably be happier (not to mention more productive!) if we cut the negative commentary at the office. (Make sure to check out 9 Smart Career Tips for a Bright, Successful Future while you’re at it.)

In surveys completed by two sets of full-time employees, Michigan State University management professor Russell Johnson found that offering up negative comments on business strategies and workplace goings-on led to defensiveness, mental fatigue, and, ultimately, a drop-off in production. Employees who coupled their criticism with constructive solutions, on the other hand, felt happier and more efficient at work. Plus, putting a positive spin on your messages will help you get along better with colleagues. Who doesn't want that? According to Johnson, employees who regularly point out errors are often referring to the perceived shortcomings of co-workers, causing tension in office relationships. (These 3 Ways to Be a Better Leader can help too.)

While you should always think twice before issuing criticism in the workplace (just to make sure it's really valid), Johnson warns against stopping your suggestions altogether. “The moral of this story is not that we want people to stop raising concerns within the company, because that can be extremely beneficial,” said Johnson in a statement. “But constantly focusing on the negative can have a detrimental effect on the individual.”

So, while it may give you momentary relief to complain to your cube-mate about that annoying guy in accounting, keep those comments to yourself, and instead focus on positive ways you can impact your company’s business or workflow. And, if you’re going to make a suggestion, skip the passive-aggressive route. Pair your criticism with a few positive solutions for improvement (and maybe throw in a couple shameless compliments), and you’ll be golden—and maybe even prime yourself for a promotion! (Positivity is effective in more areas of your life besides work: This Method of Positive Thinking Can Make Sticking to Healthy Habits So Much Easier.)

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