They're positive: Now's no time for work whining

It's easy to complain now. We are wondering which bank is going to fail next. We're questioning how our businesses and jobs will survive.

Workers are anxious and paranoid as the layoff process drags on for months. And most of us are putting in more hours than ever, struggling more with work/life balance. It is a huge challenge to stay positive.

But now is the time to take on the challenge, because negativity is contagious. It spreads through companies, hurting performance and productivity. It permeates our home lives and infects relationships.

To better cope, psychologists and experts say, we need to focus on positive actions, create a revised vision for our future and avoid pity parties.

“There's a lot about this financial hurricane that we can't control, but we can control how we face our own set of challenges,” said Jon Gordon, consultant and author of several books, including “The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work.”

Bert Oliva, a Miami motivational speaker, advises getting into a positive frame of mind before you leave home. In this troubled economy, Oliva pumps himself up with inspirational messages on Post It notes on his bathroom mirror before heading out.

Oliva has seen attendance at his seminars drop significantly in recent months. Rather than complaining, he said, he has gone back to the basics: making phone calls, connecting with people in person, building new relationships.

Much of today's workplace negativity is fear over pink slips. What can bosses do?

Ramp up communication. Hold weekly meetings, send out newsletters or e-mail, talk about the fears, Gordon said. “Even if things are great, people are still nervous.”

When there's a void in communication, he said, “Negativity fills the void.”

Mark Wilbur, president and CEO of Employers Group, a nonprofit human resources advocacy in California, said employers should articulate an action plan.

If this is a challenging time for your company, don't hide it, Wilbur said. Let staff know the new goals or vision for the future and what each person can do to help the company get there.

“Employees need a sense of hope,” he said.