Dear Wounded: Recently I was having lunch with some coworkers and I realized that every word coming out of my mouth was negative. What can I do to become less cynical?
Answer: Your email reminded me of the school board election in Mississippi County, Arkansas, earlier this fall. There was no winner, because not one person voted in the entire election. Not even Carl Miner, a candidate for the school board, who just so happened to be the only person whose name appeared on the ballot.
It is always easy to sit back and adopt the cynical position, "nothing that I do or say will matter". Miner found out that even when just one person stands up to be counted it can make a world of difference. It's no different at work where just a few people can change the attitude of an entire workplace. I've listed some ways to do this below. For more, check out Diana De Lonzoe's book "Never Be Late Again" (Post Madison, 2003)
- Is it time to get reconnected to the people you work with? Is e-mail your exclusive way to communicate these days? Increasingly, we are becoming a collection of individuals at work rather than being a community of people working together. After five e-mails, I try to call someone. After 10, I meet with them face to face. Seek to have real relationships at work rather than just a bunch of penpals.
- When was the last time you did a favor for someone at work? Part of the reason we get cynical is because we view work as a zero-sum game, to get ahead someone else has to fall behind. I think that we can all gain at work by working together. The best way to start the process is to look for opportunities to do favors for other people that you work with. Everyone I know who has tried this reports that it's not only fun to do, but that they get a lot of people starting to return the favor and doing favors for them.
- Can you consciously try to look on the positive side of things? It is easy to sit back and make fun of everyone and everything. It's tougher to actually try to contribute to creating a better workplace and better working relationships. Instead of always focusing on what's wrong, seek to find solutions to problems at work. You'll not only become more productive, you might even find yourself having more fun.
- Can't remember the last time you left your comfort zone? By striking out and doing things differently, you'll be less judgmental of other risk takers because you'll have the bruises of trying to make change yourself.
If we all vote to do nothing, there is no way to change the cynicism and negativity that many of us face each day at work. Vote yes on making work a better place and you'll find many other people ready to follow your efforts.
We'd like to hear your strategy for dealing with cynicism at work. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name & address via: http://workingwounded.com or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries must be received by Wednesday (Jan. 12).
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Quote of the Week
"Career is too pompous a word. It was a job, and I have always felt privileged to be paid for what I love doing."
Barbara Stanwyck, actress.
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Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, speaker and internationally syndicated columnist. His newest best seller, "GRAY MATTERS: The Workplace Survival Guide" (Wiley, 2004), is a business comic book that trades cynicism for solutions. Ask Bob a question: email@example.com or http://graymattersbook.com
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