How to Make Yourself Work Creatively in a Negative Environment

Nothing spells "buzz-kill" more than a team of co-workers who whine, complain or gossip about other members of the team. If you’re a creative professional, that negative environment can be a serious detriment to your creativity. Negative co-workers or a bad work situation are difficult things to handle, but you don’t have to let those negative Nellies destroy your chances of having a successful career.

If you find yourself in that negative situation, here’s what to do.

Block it Out.

Whether it’s by wearing headphones and listening to your favorite music, turning your computer so that you’re facing away from the complainers or even moving into a private office with doors that close, explore your options for tuning out the negativity.

Avoid Engaging.

Call it removal, extinction or whatever else you want to call it. Ignore the people or the negative situations as much as possible, and eventually you’ll stop being the go-to for that afternoon gossip session or that round of complaining about the boss. While you may not be able to ignore those negative people all together, you can politely remove yourself from their orbit as much as possible.

Create an Inspiring Workspace.

Spend some time decorating your office to make it more comfortable and inspiring. Add plants, a desktop Zen water fountain, photos of places you want to travel, a collage of pictures of your friends and family, or quotes to keep you inspired.

Ask for a More Flexible Working Situation.

If some of your co-workers are seriously getting you down, find out whether your boss will allow you to be more creative with your schedule. Discuss working a swing shift instead of a 9 to 5, working from home or other telecommuting options that can allow you to work in a more inspiring environment. If your boss balks, explain that you’ll gain more creativity -- and productivity -- by working that alternative schedule or in that alternative environment.

Is it Worth Saying Something?

If you’re on the verge of quitting -- or even getting let go -- on account of your lack of creativity, it may be time to get out the boxing gloves in order to spare your career. OK, don’t get in any fights, but consider whether it’s worth trying to talk to the person or people who are most responsible for that negative environment. Calmly and respectfully explain how the situation is affecting your ability to do your job, and ask that person -- or people -- what you can do together to remedy the situation. If you’re thinking of having that discussion with your boss, however, think of it as a very last-ditch effort, and have a backup plan -- as in even another job offer -- in your back pocket in case the discussion is not as well-received as you’d hoped.

Just Get Out.

Finally, if that job is causing you serious anguish and is interfering with your creative process, know that you don’t have to stay. Toxic environments can do damage to your health as well as your career -- and no job is worth that.

By using one or a few of these tactics, hopefully, you won’t have to tolerate a negative work environment for long.

Are you surrounded by negative co-workers? Do you use any different methods to cope? Your thoughts and comments below please...

Forbes: Coping in a Toxic Work Environment