Negativity as Tactic

Negativity is something that most people say they don't like. Negativity is also incredibly common. Why? 

Well, being negative is easy. Being negative means that you simply say no to what everyone else is working towards and proposing without adding anything to the equation. Being negative and focusing on the fearful is the quickest way to place yourself in the limelight without actually having substance behind your voice.

Everyone wants to sound like the smartest person in the room, from politicians running for the Presidency to your coworker whose gunning for that promotion. Behaving negatively means that one can sound smart and cautious when other ask people to look to the future and build. This is incredibly common in group settings and it's something a true leader and forward thinker avoids.

Where others focus on the downside, it's your job to build the upside and create positive alternatives and futures to whatever dilemma you and your comrades are facing.   

If you're working on a project and a team member seems to only ever list catastrophic problems that could potentially maybe one day possibly happen, take a step back before getting annoyed. Remember that this team member might have a few good, constructive points hidden in the negativity and you can find them by asking probing questions. Pull away the hysteria by asking them to quanitfy and specify their predictions of doom. Soon you'll find that what was impossible a few moments earlier was actually a comment on a weaker aspect of the project you're building together.

Doom and gloom is easy, constructive criticism and vision are hard. Be your best self and lead your colleagues away from negative excuses to positive events.

Managing People Without Being Awful

I think managing people well might be one of the hardest things to do in any organization. Mismanagement is such a vague, broad term that can refer to so many different small things about someone’s leadership style. From not being appreciative of employees to micro-managing to ignoring problems to playing favorites, there are so many different ways to be awful to the people that you manage.

When I’m managing people, I don’t really like to focus on the awful side of things. I think it’s good to self-reflect and realize both your own flaws and those of your employees, but you can’t paralyze yourself by reflecting so much you forget to accomplish anything.

For me, that means seeing that I can be demanding and expect a lot from people – or that I trust those I work with to put forward their best work. It means seeing that I really don’t like telling someone exactly what to do – or that I like people to be creative and independent. I hate hate hate being micro-managed – or I like to feel trusted by my managers.

Once you start trying to see the positives of your own negatives, do the same for the people around you. Do you work with someone who isn’t great with people, but loves counting things? Give them inventory. Do you have an employee who is really, really thorough but not very creative? Give them the rules based tasks that focus more on precision than innovation. Do you have an employee who is a little flighty, but truly imaginative? Give them tasks focused on development and fourth order thinking.

You can use your analysis of everyone’s positives and negatives (and your thoughts on how to leverage those negatives into positives) to assign tasks. If you did a good job, you won’t need to worry or hover nearly as much, which will make the good employees grow and the bad employees pretty quickly drift away. Let them fall away, if needed.

Overall, being a good manager is about finding people you can trust and giving them things to do that make them grow. With that positive outlook, you can create a culture of support and high morale. If you don’t trust the people working for you, it’s probably more of a reflection on yourself than them and it can really only lead to unhappiness.