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How to Deal with a Pessimist at Work

Have you ever had to share an office with a total Negative Nellie pessimist? Someone who always sees the worst in any situation?

 

A coworker with a constantly negative attitude can lead to a toxic culture and a lack of productivity. When one person at work is always complaining about something, that negative mindset can spread through the whole office. Rolling in the door at work on Monday morning can be tough enough! But it’s even tougher when you know you’ll be greeted by a colleague with a poor attitude.

 

Here’s what to say to protect yourself from your pessimistic colleague, and keep their bad attitude from ruining your workplace

 

Complaint #1: “Woe is Me. Everything in My Life Is Horrible.”

Your Action Plan:

This type of complaint usually comes from someone craving connection and compassion. They want a listening ear, and often get mad when you recommend actions they can take to change their situation. What’s extra-frustrating is that many of their complaints aren’t even work-related, and they waste your time wanting to gripe about their miseries without wanting any solutions.

 

In this situation, make it clear that you care (which hopefully will head off a major meltdown), but don’t engage any more than that, or you may find yourself trapped in a conversation loop. Try saying: “I understand you are frustrated, but I’m out of ideas to help you make the situation better. I can’t help you solve this problem, and I have to focus on my work right now.”

 

 

Complaint #2: “Why Do We Need To Change? This is How We’ve Always Done It.”

Your Action Plan:

Employees, especially those who have been there awhile, can be reluctant to face change. One of the most effective ways to make change less uncomfortable is to connect people to the purpose of the change. Start by pointing out to your colleague how the change is going to have a direct payoff for them.

 

If the pessimist employee is a long-timer, you could appeal to their pride by saying  “you probably know better than anyone…” about the issue at hand. Try saying “the changes being proposed are going to help us reach the vision we’ve always had for this organization. You probably know better than anyone that we were founded with a goal of accomplishing X, Y, and Z. This leap is going to feel big, but it’s going to allow us the long-term stability we’ve been wanting, which I know is important to you.”

 

Complaint #3: “That Won’t Work. This is All Wrong.”

Your Action Plan:

Some colleagues just have a complaint about everything. Constant criticism can derail a staff meeting and demoralize the team. But if handled correctly, your pessimistic colleague’s complaints may just be an asset.

 

Research shows that workplace conflict can actually lead to better solutions. If you have a regular complainer on your team, try to channel their complaining into something helpful by giving them the job of foreseeing future complications on projects and ideas. If they feel like their complaints are being heard and taken seriously, they may be more likely to keep their critiques for the times when they’re asked. But if not, try saying “I hear your concerns about solution X. It’s time to move on from brainstorming possible hurdles, and start talking about how we implement solutions to those problems. What are your suggestions for working through the potential problems?”

 


 

You may not be able to change your pessimist coworker’s attitude. But you can minimize the impact it has on you and everyone else. With a few strategic comments, you can minimize the negative impact of the office pessimist, and create a more positive atmosphere for everyone.

 

 

 

 

Stop Saying “I’m Too Busy” and Say THIS Instead…

I catch myself saying “I’m too busy to…”

… and then I realize that’s a lie.

When you say “I’m too busy to do that,” you’re really making a subjective call. And people might not respond the way you want.

By rephrasing this common saying about being stressed out, you’ll be reframing what you REALLY mean, you’ll be better understood, and you may never catch yourself saying “I’m too busy” ever again.

How to Handle Back-to-School Scheduling Without Losing Your Cool

After a long (maybe too long?) summer break, it’s time to get your kids back to school. Hallelujah! But the first month of school is prime time for stress around your house, as everyone tries to shake their lazy summer habits and jump right back into the busy-ness of the school year.

 

If your family is stressed and high-strung the first several weeks of school, here are some chaos-management techniques to help your family actually ENJOY the transition of the new school year:

 

 

Use the Plus-20 Rule

Everything takes longer than you think it does. And when you’re talking about getting back to your rigid schoolyear schedule, that goes double. Build an extra 20 minutes into every single commute, mealtime, and bedtime. I’ve found that when I’m getting into a new routine, 15 minutes isn’t *quite* enough of a buffer, but 30 is too long. Try making room for 20 extra minutes per activity in your schedule, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you get there on time. (You can also adapt this rule for projects and test studying, too! Give yourself an extra day per major assignment. Everything takes longer than you expect when you’re getting back into the swing of it.)

 

Hire the Professionals (0r the Semi-Pros)

When I was teaching my son to drive, I had a realization. I should NOT be teaching my son to drive. Somebody else should! If you have high-stress, conflict-inducing activities in your household, like math homework, parents shouldn’t be the ones to oversee that activity. Hire a professional math tutor, get a college kid to come oversee homework two nights a week, or maybe staff the job out to a math-whiz friend who owes you a favor. If you and your kids get into the habit of arguing now, this early in the school year, that’s a tough habit to break as the months wear on. Your kids are bound to be more respectful to anyone who isn’t you. So hire someone else to help with whatever the worst stuff is at your house, and enjoy the peace that follows.

 

Institute Work Hours

When I was growing up, we had “homework time” – it reached up to 2-3 hours a night once I was in high school. Depending on the age of your child, designate Work Hours time that’s just for work. If they say “I don’t have homework tonight,” great! They don’t have to do school homework, but they have to work on something. It can be a book, a project, or just a general interest. Anything but TV, phone, or video games. Adjust the age upwards as they grow. And EVERYONE in the family participates in Work Hours, not just kids. This way, you’re modeling the diligent behavior you want to see, and you’re giving your kids less of an excuse to zip through their homework and grab the remote control.

 

How to Advocate for Yourself

I got some great practice this week in advocating for myself, when I spent several days at the ER and in the hospital with a brown recluse spider bite.

There are two types of self-advocacy, and one may SEEM easier than the other… but they’re both tricky.

Here’s what you need to know about how to advocate for yourself in a way that’s going to get you the outcome you deserve.

How Your Stress Might Be Costing You (Big Time!) At Work

Think you have your stress symptoms under control? Think you do a good job of masking your frustration at your boss and coworkers? Think no one else notices the pressure you feel?

 

Think again.

 

Most of us aren’t very good at hiding it, when we’re stressed. We leave little clues, like a huff in our voice or a death grip on our armrests. I promise you, people notice.

 

Why do we think we should hide our stress? Well, many workplaces recognize that stressed-out employees produce poor work quality, provide bad customer service, and make lousy colleagues. (Some work environments still romanticize stress as a sign of being important, but that’s a whole different problem!) We think we need to hide our stress so we can show that “we got this!” and that we’re a rockstar who can juggle anything given to us.

 

If you’re shoving your stress down thinking no one is noticing, you’re wrong. The little stress signals you’re giving off are speaking volumes to the rest of your colleagues, and they could cause you problems at work, in three major ways:

 

You’ll Be Labeled “Not a Team Player”

 

When you’re under stress, a natural reaction can be to pull away from the group, in order to avoid lashing out or feeling further annoyed. It is a good idea to stay away from situations that will trigger an unprofessional stress response, but sometimes your instincts will cause you to retreat too much.

 

You might not even notice that you’ve pulled away from the group, but your boss probably will. She won’t necessarily realize you’re under stress (because you haven’t told her because you want to get that big promotion so you want to look like you can handle anything!) She’ll just see that you aren’t contributing during meetings, or assisting your coworkers the way you used to, and she’ll think you’re not interested in being a contributing member of the team. Uh oh…

 

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You’ll Drive Away Your Inner Circle

 

But you have one team at work you can always count on, right? Your work buddies! There’s a group you can be honest with, and share your stress.

 

Well… maybe.

 

See, research shows that “venting” is actually an unhelpful form of expressing your frustration with a problem, because you let off just enough steam that it keeps you from actually getting up the energy to make headway against the problem. Think of it like a pot of boiling water that never quite boils over, because you’ve “vented” the lid just enough. If you stay boiling long enough, your friends are going to distance themselves from your negativity. Yikes…

 

You’ll Get Passed Over For That Promotion

 

You’re trying to hide your stress levels precisely because you want to get ahead at work. But those hidden “tells” that you’re letting slip are ratting you out. Your boss is noticing the changes in your behavior, and even if he does realize it’s stress-related, he’s wondering why you haven’t approached him about it.

 

Successful people often (not always, but often) get to where they are by admitting they can’t do everything themselves. My husband, an entrepreneur, is a great example of this for me. He always reminds me that he hires people far smarter than he to do their jobs, and he relies heavily on them when the workload gets high. If your boss thinks you can’t admit when you’re stressed and can’t ask for help, he may think you aren’t qualified for that promotion. And he may (rightly!) be worried that you don’t have enough appropriate stress-management techniques to handle the job. Bye-bye, corner office!

 

 

Even if you think you’re hiding your stress from your boss and coworkers, you probably aren’t. And the symptoms of your stress that are showing are probably hurting you worse in the long run than just admitting you’re stressed. Come clean if you’re feeling stressed, because then you and your team can come up with appropriate ways to successfully get you back in peak form.

 

 

 

 

How to Redefine Success After Life Throws You a Curveball

This is the story about one of the most humbling experiences of my life, and what I learned from it.

After you’ve lived through a tough time, it’s easy to want to get “back to normal.” But often after a difficult experience, your old goals are obsolete.

Here are 2 important considerations to help you redefine your relationship to success (and redefine success itself!) and start achieving again, no matter what you’ve been through!

How to Facilitate Change in the Workplace… No Matter WHAT Your Title Is

Anyone – at all levels of any company – can help make corporate transitions happen more smoothly if they know this one technique to facilitate change.

Whether you’re high up on the totem pole or smack dab in the middle, there’s one thing you can do that will make change a little easier for you AND your colleagues: talk about the purpose of change. Here’s how to do it, so you can stop feeling the discomfort of change and start moving forward.

Overwhelmed by Current Events? Here’s How to Protect Your Mental Health

It’s hard not to feel beaten down and hopeless when you see the daily news, no matter your political affiliation or personal beliefs.

 

When the world seems like it’s too much to handle, it may be because your brain is tricking you into one of the following overwhelming mental traps:

 

 

I’m only one person, I can’t do anything to help.

 

The world’s problems are bigger than any one person can solve. And when we look at them in one giant mass, like on the front page of a news website, it’s easy to feel completely powerless. But the next time you catch your brain saying “I can’t do anything to help,” correct it. Tell your brain, “No. You can’t do everything to help. But there is something.”

 

Do you have specialized skills that are needed? Can you donate money? Can you educate yourself and be a resource for others? If there’s nothing you can do today, think long-term. Can you teach your children to end the cycle? Can you consider a run for public office? When we feel hopeless, that feeling can start to spiral and invade other areas of our lives. But the good news is it’s easy to correct by taking action in a single area. Decide one thing you can do to make the world what you think it should be, and that hopeless feeling will start to fade. As it does, you’ll feel yourself able to take on more and more.

 

 

But if I turn off the TV, I’m just turning a blind eye.

 

I applaud anyone who thinks “Sure, I could turn off the TV or shut down the computer and not have to look at it. But the people living in X situation don’t have the privilege of walking away.” That’s a compassionate thought. But my concern is this: engaging in a solution is activism. Engaging in a solution is positive. Engrossing yourself in a problem is mental torture.

 

Activism is literally the foundation of the United States of America, but recently I’ve heard many people say they can’t sleep or even talk to other people because they’re so outraged over the current state of affairs. If you are so disturbed by current events that you can’t function, you may be unable to turn your feelings into positive outcomes. Stepping away from the news, if it puts you in a better mental state to take action on your beliefs, is the best help you can offer.

 

I don’t even know what to believe.

 

Social media has become a major source of many people’s information. Yet nearly every time I log on to Facebook, I see someone sharing something that appears (on the surface) to be research, but at closer look it’s not. My recommendation, if you’re overwhelmed with conflicting information is to get off social media, or at least don’t get your information from there, even if an article appears to be legit and it agrees with your beliefs.

 

Do your own research. If you’re looking to find balanced media sources, I’ve seen this infographic floating around. I also just ran across this online self-test to help you identify whether or not you can tell the difference between facts and opinions (this is a non-partisan quiz!). In complex situations, there often isn’t one single, magic-wand of a solution, and therefore not one entirely right answer. If the flood of conflicting opinions on social media is making you want to scream, it’s okay to log off. Engage, but engage where it really matters (which often isn’t the internet.)

 

 

 

As the world becomes smaller and smaller thanks to the speed of digital information, it’s easier than ever to see the suffering and the conflict. You cannot fix the problems of the world unless you are as strong and resilient as possible. Avoid the overwhelm, then you can be a champion for the causes you believe in.

 

How to Respond When a Loved One Says “I Have Depression.”

What should you say when someone you care about admits to having depression? It’s hard to know the “right” way to respond, but what you say in that moment really matters.

If someone you know starts this conversation with you, here are a few pointers on how to respond in a helpful and loving way, that continues the conversation and supports your friend or family member with depression. Armed with a few of these phrases, maybe you’ll be a little less apprehensive about saying the “right thing.”

This may be one of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have, but it’s also among the most important.

 

“Here’s How I Saved My Marriage” (The Best Marriage Advice I’ve Collected)

I used to think “saving your marriage” was only for dire situations. That “marriage saving” was like last-ditch, life-support, right-after-the-marriage-counselor-and-before-the-divorce-attorney kind of work.

 

And then I grew up.

 

Saving a marriage is like saving a bicycle tire that isn’t brand new: it probably needs to be pumped up regularly. It may even need a patch. If you know how to save your marriage, you can save it BEFORE it becomes an emergency.

 

One Panic At a Time

 

The first marriage lesson I learned was my sophomore year in high school. That was WAY too early to start thinking about marriage advice, but TV star Paul Reiser’s book Couplehood had come out, and somehow I ended up with a copy as a gift. I still remember, all the way back to February of 1995, the advice Reiser gave about being upset in a marriage. He said only one member of a couple can be “up a tree” at any time. Only one of you can be upset, frustrated, or just plain losing it. And if your partner is “up a tree,” as he called it, then you have to stay on the ground and be the rational one.

 

I was just starting to experience, at the time, how easy it can be to freak out when your partner is upset. Their frustration feeds your frustration in a big ugly loop, and suddenly you’ve both lost your cool and pffffft! There goes the healthy relationship. (It’s as easy as that when you’re 15.)  As an adult, my husband and I both have been able to cultivate really calm reactions when the other person is freaking out – it’s almost a little unnatural, but it helps us keep the situation from spiraling out of control. One person up a tree at a time, like Paul Reiser said.

 

You Don’t Win Without Him

 

My mentor and dear friend, Lee, is in her 90s. With the life she’s lived, she’s offered me lots of great advice over the years, especially about running my speaking business. But she gave me one warning that really stuck with me: don’t get too big for your britches, or your marriage will suffer.

 

She told me about how, early in her career, she was so proud of succeeding on her own. In her day, women running businesses were an exception, not a rule. Clients were flying her all over the world, and money was coming in. She told me she was getting treated like a star on the road, and when the applause ended she came home to her husband, she couldn’t shake the expectation that she was still The Star. Her husband felt ignored, unloved, and taken for granted. And she didn’t even notice until he warned her to change or he was going to leave.

 

“You BOTH have to win, for it to be a good marriage,” she told me. “Every success of yours, you have to thank your partner, because it’s shared. And if you don’t see the role they played in your success, you aren’t looking hard enough.” Every success is shared.

 

Stop Worshipping At The Altar of Quality Time

 

I’m on the road a lot, which is where I was when I heard this next bit of good advice. I was talking to some audience members after one of my presentations about being excited to go home and spend time with Jamie, my husband. I said “what I really need is some quality time.” Her response surprised me…

 

“Quality time is great,” she said. “But we’re all so obsessed with quality time that we don’t’ realize TIME when we have it. Don’t wait so long for quality time that you miss opportunities for ANY time.”

 

I realized she was right. That nighttime Netflix “Office” binge isn’t time I ever thought of as “quality time.” It’s too short and too late for deep conversation or fun activities. But I can either replace it with something I value more, or turn it into an intentional bonding experience with Jamie (we’re currently going with the latter, and keeping a running list of new inside jokes thanks to the Dunder-Mifflin crew). Thanks to kids, jobs, dishes, and life, you may not get a lot of dedicated quality time, so stop waiting around for the perfect moment and just make meaning out of the moments you DO have.

 

Your Marriage Isn’t Your Dumping Ground

 

The final lesson is one my husband, Jamie, and I learned ourselves the hard way. It had been one of those days. One of our rescue dogs had barked and lunged at another dog on the trail. I had warned Jamie earlier that he wasn’t choking up on the leash enough, so when the dog acted up I immediately launched into I-told-you-so mode. That afternoon we’d run ourselves ragged with work and chores, until it was time to feed the dogs AND make dinner AND put away the dishes, at which point Jamie snapped at me that he couldn’t reach the dog bowl because I had opened the dishwasher in the way. I was about to snarkily respond about how easy it was to just SHUT the dishwasher when I realized…

 

We were taking the stresses of the day and basically making them the other person’s fault. We were tired and busy, and we couldn’t snap at anybody ELSE in our lives, so we turned to the person closest to us and made it THAT person’s problem. Which is a great way to build animosity. The fact that my life is stressful isn’t my husband’s fault. 99% of the time, he makes my life easier, not harder. So it’s not fair to make him my dumping ground for all the blame of the stress I’m carrying around.

 


 

Your marriage doesn’t need white knight on a horse saving, it just needs a gentle, nudging reminder saving. What are you doing to pump up your marriage every once in a while?