You spilled your coffee, got stuck in traffic, and put a snag in your favorite sweater. By the time you sit down at your desk, you’re already in a pretty foul mood.
So, when your manager stops by to ask you to make some major changes to that report you spent hours working on, you finally tip over that ledge and spiral into a full-blown emotional funk. Your jaw is clenched, your fists are balled up, and you have a scowl permanently parked on your face.
What’s the bad part about this (other than the fact that you’re having a plain ol’ crappy time)? Well, a toxic attitude can spread faster than that juicy office gossip about Susan’s long, closed-door meeting with her boss.
Yes, bad days are contagious—particularly in a working environment. And, if you don't nip your infectious mood in the bud, it'll be that much harder for you to snap out of it when everyone else around you is feeling grumpy.
You need to get your attitude in check—and fast.
1. Avoid Venting
It’s human nature—when you’re having a terrible time in the office, you’re eager to air your grievances to the first person who will listen. You want to grab your closest co-worker and take a quick break by for a little whisper session about how awful things are going.
This might be comforting to you, but it’s bound to spread some negativity throughout your office. Before you know it, that close colleague of yours is just as irritated or worked up as you—and the domino effect continues.
While there are some productive ways to vent in the office every now and then, sometimes it’s better to shut your mouth and keep those complaints to your self. As Muse Senior Editor, Stacey Lastoe says in her piece on keeping a grumpy demeanor under wraps, “The key to keeping your unpleasant mood in check during the workday is to say as little as possible. By staying quiet, you avoid the risk of opening your mouth and saying the first snarky thing that comes to mind.”
If you absolutely need to get something off your chest? Consider cranking out an email that contains all of your thoughts and frustrations—but never actually hit “send.” That way, you can get all of that negativity out of your own brain (meaning you can take a deep breath and “move on”), without running the risk of spreading those bad vibes around your office.
2. Take a Break
The downward spiral of negativity moves quickly. A bad meeting turns into a bad morning, which turns into a bad day—which can easily turn into an entire bad week (should I keep going?).
Sometimes, you need to do something to throw a wrench into this cycle and nip your cranky attitude in the bud so that you can come back to the office feeling like the positive and eager professional that you are (rather than dragging both yourself and your co-workers down).
One of the best ways to do just that is to get up and take a break. Go outside and take a walk, run an errand, or head out for a quick cup of coffee. Do anything that will get you away from your desk and give you a chance to press the reset button.
Research shows that attempting to continue to stay focused on the task at hand will only lead to increased fatigue and an even worse mood—and that won’t do anybody any favors (including you). So, stand up and give yourself a pause to get your attitude adjusted. In the end, that’s much better than trying to power through.
3. Perform a Random Act of Kindness
No matter how bad things are going, you know that you don’t want your crabby mood to negatively impact everybody else you work with. And, one of the very best ways to give the vibe around the office a boost (and your own outlook in the process) is to perform a random act of kindness. In fact, research shows that these small niceties actually raise your dopamine levels—making you feel way better in the process.
Leave a pack of candy from the vending machine on your colleague’s desk, or pick up some coffee for the rest of your team. Or, take on the dirty work and clean out the breakroom microwave for everybody.
Doing something nice and unexpected will flip the script on your sour attitude and spread some enthusiasm and positivity around the office. Plus, it’ll not only put a smile on your co-worker’s faces, but likely on yours, too.
4. Fake it ’Til You Make it
You’ve probably heard this expression before, and it still rings true. Don’t let your bad mood rule your entire day and your interactions in the office. Instead, put on your most convincing happy face and push through.
Is appearing upbeat and excited easy when you’re feeling down? Definitely not. But, it’s still better than sending the outlook of your entire office (and your reputation) into a nosedive with one snide comment or pesky complaint.
Even better? Science says that smiling (even when you don’t feel like it) can actually help to improve your mood. So, it might be just what you need to turn that awful day of yours around.
Bad days come after the best of us. And, while having one every now and then is totally normal, it’s better for you and everybody else if you don’t let it spread like wildfire among your colleagues. Because at the end of this no-good, rotten day, that’ll only make you feel worse.
Photo of person having a bad day courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author