ABC’s of Team Building – N is for Negativity

Who are the five people you spend the most time with?  Most people when I ask this question in my presentations say family, best friend, coworkers, and boss.  Then I tell them they are all wrong.  The person you spend the most time with is yourself.  So, if you are spending all this time with yourself shouldn’t it be the best?  And why would you want to be around the other four if they are so negative?

Being negative is very easy to do.  We are bombarded with negative messages all the time which includes politics, the economy, weather disasters, etc. Even when we hear good news i.e. a person winning the lottery, others will turn it around because they did not win and will lament to others that they spent money on a worthless ticket.

The other thing to consider is why is someone so negative.  Is it because they have low self-esteem?  Jealousy?  Depressed?  Those are only a few.  For a person who is always negative, it may be difficult for them to change too and many people fear change.  The problem is that no one can control another person’s behavior so either you can put up with it, confront it, or alter your behavior. Keep in mind, however, that being around a negative person for a long period of time can make you like that which can also affect your health.

All this negativity can really affect the workplace overall as well.  Even though it may start with one person, it can rapidly spread to others.  Rumors and gossip can also be a part of this and before a leader knows it, the environment is very toxic.  You also have to consider that you may be adding to the negativity in the office subconsciously by agreeing with others or creating factions within the team.

There are a few benefits though to pessimism.  When one is too optimistic, they may throw caution into the wind which can cause major problems.  They may not seek out alternative plans i.e. a Plan B if it rains for an outside event.  They could also be so trusting of others that they are blindsided when those people do not live up to their expectations and/or meet critical deliverables.

It is a balancing act to be both positive and pessimistic so try to keep an open mind and review alternatives to a problem.  To do this, ask compelling questions of your coworkers and leaders to truly understand their thoughts as well as trying to figure out if there are some underlying issues that they may not be willing to share (parent or child is ill so they are stressed out), or that they are not cognizant of (they have grown up a certain way and this is how they view the world).  Practice gratitude yourself every day and try to get others to as well.  There are various trainings too that will help your organization that you should also consider.  If nothing is done, low productivity and possibly a mass exodus of workers could occur.