I’ve had the very good fortune of working for some really good “emerging behavior” kind of leaders. You know the kind: those rare and wonderful people who seem to fundamentally believe that people wake up in the morning – they want to do the right thing; who don’t fancy themselves as the center of the universe, but as an enabling force for their employees; who do everything they can to get you the tools you need to be successful, then step out of the way and let you run, stumble, fall down, get back up and run again…
I think I blame those leaders for my innovative and entrepreneurial streak. It’s their fault I don’t know how to sit in an office or cube, put my head down and toil. They’re behind my rise to the top of the GS structure in what seems like a few week’s time. They are the reason for my enthusiasm and failure to comprehend the defeatist attitude.
This is a true story: I once had an Eeyore working down the hall from me at a hospital. He was your typical sad sack who never had anything positive to say. Everything to him was clouds and gloom. I used to think: “Man… this guy’s been beat up by life.”
I sorta befriended this walking cloud – simply by being nice to him – to the point where he used to come visit me in my office almost daily. He’d mope in, grumbling something about someone, complain about something – new or old, it didn’t matter – and mope back out again. The routine wore on and I learned that this fellow had an endless supply of mope and dope. Like a black hole, it began to sap my energy.
I finally had to set some boundaries with him for my own sanity. He moped in one day and I took that as my opportunity.
“Charlie, you and I need some rules.”
“Do you see that door way?” I said, pointing to the door of my office.
“Yeah.” he said with a characteristic grimace.
“That door is an energy barrier.” I said. “On the inside of that doorway is only positive energy because it’s my office. Do you understand?”
“Uh, yeah.” he said looking at the door.
“On the outside of that door, you can talk about whatever you want, but when you’re on the inside of that doorway, we are only going to talk about happy things, okay?”
He stood there in silence for a minute or two – just looking at the doorway without saying a word.
“I need to run out to a meeting.” I said as a grabbed my notebook. “I’ll see you later today, okay?”
“Uh… yeah. I guess.” He said. I left him standing there.
He was gone when I came back. I didn’t see him later that day – or for two weeks after that. When I finally did see him again, I was sort of glad he decided to return. I smiled when he showed up in my doorway. He paused before entering – something he’d never done before.
“Hey, Charlie.” I said “How you doing?”
Charlie walked in, looked out my picture windows to the sky (which was gray with clouds that day) and said: “Well…” he paused and shifted his weight a little “…at least it’s not raining today.”
“That’s true.” I said with a grin on my face. “It’s not raining today.”
I had an assistant like this once. Her moaning & complaining some days actually took on a musical, singsong quality. (Let me add: Neither her life nor job was very hard.) Sometimes to break the endless stream of complaining I’d say, “What’s the best thing that happened to you today?” Once she thought & thought and finally, in her best exasperated tone, said, “Well, I didn’t die on my way to work, all right?”
That’s fun. It is true that energy is contagious for better or worse.
No matter what the weather…..always bring your own bag of sunshine!
That’s a great approach! Thanks for the lesson!
Here’s where GovLoop gets really fun! Just a few days ago, the Stress Doc shared a post on “The Dangers of Being Too Positive.” He advocates for seeing the glass both half-full and half-empty.
Is there a proper place for venting?
Recognizing that door as the energy barrier, does a leader need to step outside the office for a minute, allow the employee a chance to speak his/her mind, then return to the established sanctuary?
The real trick is walking side by side with that employee to help them create an oasis of their own, eh?
Oh, my…. Why does this remind me of Jon Stewart’s wonderful portrayal of “Droopy” Lieberman on The Daily Show. 😉
I like that. People occasionally need to vent, but when someone is negative all of the time, it does become a drain on the energy of everyone involved. It is far better to nicely point that out to them than to just cut-off the relationship or get so tired of it that you blow up at them.
Jane – LOL. I love your approach!
Barry – it looks like we lost that video. They took it down. 🙁
Steve – Very true about the energy. Over the years, I’ve become very selective about who I spend time with. Too much negativity can bring energy levels down for sure. Contagious.
Lisa – How’s your sunshine today?
Dawn – good advice.