Having a moan

How often have you been in a group having a moan about something ?

Suddenly the whole conversation becomes negative, and even if you entered the conversation happy and upbeat, you leave feeling negative and miserable.   Quite often the people in that initial conversation move on to the next conversation and continue the negativity.

Before you know it, productivity has decreased, morale has hit rock bottom and everyone is grumpy.

So how do we change that?

In the same way that negativity breeds negativity, positivity breeds positivity.

It only takes one person to be positive and to force the rest of the group to think differently in order to change the mood.

I try to look at potentially negative situations, do some analysis and think about what positive I can take from the situation.  I have to force myself to do this sometimes because it is so easy to be drawn into the negativity.  Let’s look at a few examples.

Sadly, I have spent many hours, days and weeks holding redundancy consultation meetings.  For most people, the initial reaction is follows the stages of the Change Curve*, i.e. one of denial, anger, exploration and eventually acceptance.    It is at the point of exploration, that I have found that a discussion around opportunities can turn the situation into a positive.  By identifying the potential that a change of company, change of job role can present, and supporting the individual with good careers guidance and access to information, quite often the individual can start to see a more positive future for themselves.  I am always encouraged to receive feedback from people who contact me after they have successfully found alternative employment, and hear them say that although they couldn’t see it at the time, the redundancy was the best thing that could have happened to them because it forced them out of their comfort zone.

Another example, and I can hear the groans coming already, is that I regularly run Equality and Diversity training.  Most people attend reluctantly and only because it is compulsory.  I am pleased to say that I have received almost 100% positive feedback from my training (almost because of the hundreds of people I have trained one person really struggled with the discussion about diversity and asked to be excused from the training).  So in this example, I face two potential negatives – one that people are reluctant to be there and two that the potential for differences of opinions on very sensitive topics needs to be handled quickly, effectively and positively.

As the trainer, it is my responsibility to turn these into positives.  I do this by setting the ground rules and make the training interactive, realistic and fun (yes, equality training can be fun!!).  I make it non-personal but allow people to share experiences, whether their own or others, in a confidential non-contentious manner so that learning is shared.  I don’t set myself up to be an expert (I honestly don’t believe anyone is an expert in this particular topic) – I learn from every session as well.  I introduce the most contentious of issues and help people to understand their own prejudices and how perceptions are not necessarily the same as reality.

One of my greatest successes was after running a session in a very male dominant environment with big burly men, who were clearly not thrilled to be there and ticked many of the stereotypical traits we think about in such an environment.  After the session, one person approached me to say that he was gay, but no-one knew – he certainly didn’t fit the stereotype applied to gay men.  Because of the training, he had decided to share this with his colleagues because it felt that they would understand how to treat him now and he did not need to fear mockery or rejection.  I received feedback a few weeks later that he had indeed done so and this had been accepted by his colleagues.

I did speak to the person who had asked to leave the training because it concerned me that although I knew the person valued their privacy, they had become quite upset early on in the session.  I spent some time doing 1-2-1 training with the individual and although I couldn’t get to the bottom of why they had felt so upset, I took on board the feedback I had received and made improvements to the way I delivered the training around that specific topic in future courses.  All feedback is positive feedback, even if it is negative because it allows us the opportunity to improve.

So, the moral of the story is that no matter what the situation, force yourself to look for a positive – no matter how small.  If you make a mistake, think about what you have learnt and how to prevent it happening again.  If you are in a conflict situation, think about how to defuse it and when and how to address the situation, starting with an acknowledgement of how that person might be feeling (whether or not you agree with the issue).  Use techniques to help reflect on how it could have been handled better, and offer support, where appropriate – even if you walk away feeling the situation is not 100% resolved, but that emotions are under control, that is a positive – it allows you to deal with the situation on a factual, non-emotional basis.

Make a point of asking your partner/children/friends ‘What went well today’ rather than just ‘How was your day’.  By doing so, you encourage them to look for the positives too.

Every day, look for a positive in your life (doesn’t matter if it is personal or business) and put that thought to the front of your mind because focusing on that positive is good for you and good for those around you.


Thanks for reading my blog, if you’d like to have a chat with me or one of my colleagues about this or any other HR issue then do call or drop us an email – details of how to do that can be found here.

Tarnya Brink – Area Director

0333 005 0066 / tbrink@sagegreen.com


*The change curve was originally created by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 to illustrate how people deal with the news that they have a terminal illness.

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