How to stay positive at work

Abandon your own perspective.

One way to master deep acting is via emotional intelligence training, which involves reframing an event to make it less triggering, explains Grandey.

Get the benefits: When your patience is being tested, abandon your own perspective and adopt someone else’s. Instead of slapping a smile on your face and nodding when your boss is being overly critical during an in-person or Zoom meeting, imagine how their day is going. Did they have back-to-back calls all morning? Is their boss asking a lot of them, too?

This cognitive switch helps you change your thinking, and thus your outward approach, in a more natural, sustainable way.

Take authentic breaks.

One study Grandey conducted found that surface acting caused less burnout in people who felt they had space to be their authentic selves.

Get the benefits: On coffee or lunch breaks, hang out with a coworker who you can be yourself around (or call them if you’re remote). These aren’t opportunities to bash people or complain nonstop. Rather, use this time to talk about personal projects and goings-on.

If you don’t feel like you can be real with anyone on your team, use your break for a mindfulness practice or a solo walk. Doing so can make it easier to tolerate negativity from coworkers, Grandey says. Shifting into parasympathetic mode can help you move forward by mitigating stress and anxiety.

Try a walking scan or, if you’re at home, perform the practice while sitting comfortably on a meditation cushion or folded-up blanket. Do this even on days when you feel fine. Consistency will keep feelings from becoming pent up and volatile.

Set better boundaries.

Boundary-setting can be challenging, especially for aspiring team players who want to always be available to their coworkers. When done well, however, setting limits can help you be fully present and real during important interactions, Chait explains.

Get the benefits: When a coworker interrupts with a request or small talk, take a deep breath before sending a snappy response or shooting them an annoyed glare.

If you’re not in the mental state to engage, kindly say, “Now isn’t a good time; can we find a time after 2 p.m. that works for both of us?” This honest framing will allow you to give the matter the attention it deserves—on your own terms.

Analyze your current job situation.

Surface acting is linked to quitting, likely because of exhaustion, notes Grandey. If you find yourself regularly faking it, you’ll need to find the root cause. Compromise is inevitable, but it's important to figure out what you do and don't want in a job.

Get the benefits: First, make two lists: one with everything you’d like to have in a job and one with all the things you’d rather not. You might put "collaborative team” on the former and “rigid work hours” on the latter, for example. Once it’s complete, check off the items your current role satisfies.

No job is perfect, but yours ideally offers enough pros and few enough cons to make it worth keeping, Chait says. Remember that you can and should mold your role to match your strengths and needs. Whenever possible, seek opportunities to add tasks that you enjoy into your daily routine.

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