To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
Dave Durand advises a worker on how to maintain a winning attitude in an office that’s polarized between chronic complainers (who see nothing but problems) and Pollyannas (who see no need for change or improvement).
BY Dave Durand
2 Poles, 1 Team
It seems like there are two types of people in the office I
work in. Some are chronic complainers. No matter what happens, good or bad,
they always focus on the pitfalls and the problems. Others are just the
opposite: positive-thinking Pollyannas. They’re so chipper, they enable
problems to fester by refusing to acknowledge that any exist. There’s got to be
a happy middle. Where have all the realists gone?
It is my experience that the loudest personalities in the
office usually set the tone. Their extreme attitudes permeate the work
atmosphere and often drown out the collective voice of reason.
You’re probably not entirely alone, though it may take a
while to discover others who are quiet but reasonable. Keep your eyes and ears
open because you may find an undiscovered friend and ally who sees things like
In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to cope —
and even to excel — in what sounds like a polarized corporate culture.
As far as coping is concerned, having perspective is the
best way to start. Although there’s nothing holy, per se, in either group’s
approach, they’re probably working with their God-given temperaments. Some
people have a natural tendency to see the down side of things.
If you can get past the irritation that you feel, you may
begin to recognize that their “negativity” can be a positive thing because it
anchors the Pollyanna crowd. If the negative people weren’t there, your office
staff might try every flighty or whimsical idea that comes down the pike. That
could lead to disaster.
On the other hand, if the complaining crowd did not have the
Pollyanna group to balance the scales, especially when making decisions, then
your team would be paralyzed by imaginary obstacles.
God gave each of us a different outlook. When we work
together we can get a “three-dimensional” perspective on challenges at work.
Now, when it comes to excelling, you have a great
opportunity because the people you have described are probably starving for
good leadership. Even if you don’t have direct line authority over anyone — and
it sounds like you’re a staffer, not a manager — you will emerge as a leader if
you manage the situation appropriately. (For some excellent insights on
ground-up leadership, see “Virtue + Action = Leadership: We Are All Called to
Lead” in the Jan. 13-19 issue of the Register.)
One of the biggest reasons people go to one of two extremes
is because they don’t feel important in their work. If you find a way to
encourage the negative crowd by thanking them for contributions and recognizing
their work, they may become more positive — even if only around you. If you do
the same with the Pollyanna group, they might take more pride in the details of
their work and become increasingly foresighted.
Another reason people sometimes act in either extreme is
because they feel insecure in some way. It may come from feeling as though they
have no real control over change or they may feel like their job itself is not
Finding ways to build confidence will be fruitful. Most
people are never complimented for a job well done but they are “recognized” for
mistakes. Be sure that you recognize the big and little things in one-on-one
settings and during public gatherings such as over lunch or in a meeting.
Remember that when people feel good they usually perform at
In December, Leadership Excellence magazine
named Dave Durand on its list of
“the top 100 minds on personal development.”
He’s online at DaveDurand.com.