The Value of Negativity

Negative employees can be a drag, but understanding the reasons for their behavior and finding ways to address them can create a better environment for everyone.

-Gwen Moran, writing at Fast Company online

One of the best parts of being a leader, for me, is working closely enough with people to really understand them.  Truly caring about their well being, motivations, and happiness is paramount to my own engagement and fulfillment. 

One of the biggest challenges is to get to the bottom of the behavior of an Eeyore.  An Eeyore is the person who is always seeing the dark side, the worst possible outcome, and with both body and verbal language exudes discontent.  But just like in A.A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh, we can't all be Tiggers.  The difficult part is not writing off the comments of Eeyores.  They sometimes feel exhausting and it's easy to tire of negativity.  However, as leaders, we have the responsibility to see past the nature of a person to get to the heart of an issue.  Tiggers will often be sunshine and rainbows during a thunderstorm, which is also a valuable role.  But Tiggers can sometimes gloss over real issues, especially if they are painful.  Eeyores give us the opportunity to really listen, to understand, to empathize.  When we do this, we can learn about issues big and small.  It's easy to be overwhelmed by an Eeyore's list of issues.  The trick is to be open to them.  This is hard work.  Listening and getting a comprehensive list of everything they see as a problem can hurt. 

I LOVE every organization I'm a part of.  My team has worked so hard to create a great place to work.  To hear everything that's wrong with it... ouch!  Shedding honest light on challenges while assuring our Eeyores that it will be ok, that it IS ok, is a leader's responsibility.  We'll never fix all their issues, they’re likely to always be an Eeyore at heart, but being listened to, heard, and understood goes a long way in fostering an engaged team!