The Eeyore Effect. Don’t Mess with My Chi.

There are those who will wish you good morning. If it is a good morning, which I doubt” -Eeyore.

Sometimes I feel like the world is awash with Eeyores.  You know, the glass half empty people.  The punch list for the year long project has 100 items on it and all but one is checked off. We focus on the one incomplete item and gnash our teeth. Really?  Only one box left to check off and we are failures?  Quit messing with my chi. Eeyores Gloomy Place

What in the world do we do with these folks?  How do we dig out from the negative muck they produce on a daily basis?  Let’s pull up our boot straps or sandal straps (does anyone have boot straps any more?) and figure out how to bring some positivity into the work place and your life. Let’s figure out how to maintain some sunshine for the rest of us.

Here are some tips:

1. Losada Ratio.  Dr. Marcial Losada created and studied this ratio of positive to negative messages within relationships and organizations.  What he found was that organizations that have 2.9 or more positive messages over negative messages thrive.  Those that fall below fail.  In a marriage, it’s got to be 5.0 or better (thanks for emptying the garbage, Honey).  So if you want your business or relationship to thrive, stick a sock in it and start pumping some sunshine.

2. Gratitude.  Many author’s including Martin Seligman in the book “Flourish” recommend a gratitude journal or as he says “What went well”.  I do this.  Everyday before I go to sleep, I write three things that went well.  I have to believe that it improves my dreams because right before I put my head on the pillow, I’m thinking about all that went right.  It’s not like it’s gotta be “I climbed Mt. Everest”.  It could be “I got dressed” or “I made it to work on time”.  Focus on the positive.

3. Scenarios.  Reframe the scenario.  We all tend to focus on the negative.  If we make a change, the project will be delayed.  If it rains, the grass can’t be mowed.  Our limbic system makes us focus on the negative.  In “Flourish”, Martin Seligman suggests looking at the worst case scenario, but then looking at the best case scenario, and then looking at the most likely scenario.  The project might be late but it will serve twice the amount of customers.  The grass will grow… and the flowers as well.  When your coworker starts catastrophizing the outcome, ask about the best and most likely scenario.

4. Outcomes.  Ask your friend about what his best outcome would be.  Focus on The What that he’s interested in.  So Joe, “what would you like to see happen with this project?”  “What can you control in this situation?” “What would make you feel like you accomplished something?”  As David Rock espouses, focus on solutions (and stay clear of the problems). Keep it outcome based.

5. Hood.  If you are living in the 100 Aker Wood, stay clear of Eeyore’s Gloomy Place (rather boggy and sad).  Watch what neighborhood you hang out in.  If it’s obvious that your household or your organization is on the low end of the Losada Ratio, pitch in and turn it around or move on.  In the long run, if you sitting around all the gloom and bogginess, eventually the organization won’t be there or the relationships that brought the house together won’t be either.  And if you seek out a new “hood”, make sure you are taking the temperature (or feeling the vibe) of a potential new “hood”.  If you see any donkeys, move on.

If it turns out the Eeroye is a really important irreplaceable person in your life, say your child or your parent;  it might be time for a frank discussion.  Explain the impact it’s having on your life or your “chi”.  Sometimes they just don’t realize how they are being perceived and their impact on those around them.

How do you deal with the Eeroyes in your life?

Gotcha Management

This is the first cousin to the Tyrant and leads to pointing fingers and silo building.  It’s the story of the boss who pulls the rug out from under her team to point out all their flaws. It’s when the status quo is suddenly way too low and she’s going to make sure you are shown the error of your ways.  It’s kind of like, if suddenly cops actually started pulling you over for driving 60 miles an hour in a 55 speed zone.  You’re saying to yourself, “Really?  It’s only 5 miles over the speed limit.  I’ve been driving like this for 30 years and now you’re going to start issuing tickets?” Gotcha Management

The Gotcha boss feels emboldened because they have “such high standards”.  She feels like she’s really calling the shots and making folks tow-the-line.  In the meantime, her team is living in fear and not producing.  They are constantly struggling to CYA and quickly pointing the finger at the rest of the team members so that everyone else ends up low person on the totem pole.  All the other bosses start building up their silos so that the fingers don’t start getting pointed in their direction.  Ah yes.  There is safety with a thick, high wall between departments.

So what do you do if you are unfortunate enough to report to such a boss?  Here are some tips:

1. Open.  Keep open communication.  If your boss is always busy and won’t make time for you, send an email.  Subject line: Can we meet for ten minutes on the following?  In the body of the email: list the bullet points of what you’d like to discuss.  This gives your boss a heads up as to what the discussion is about.  They get to prepare (if they need to) and don’t feel blindsided when you finally get the meeting.  If your boss isn’t defensive, the communication will be more effective.  Keep communication channels open.

2. Solution Focus.  Don’t dwell on the details and drama.  When you bring an issue to your boss, bring the solution with you.   It’s best to bring three options.  Three?  Well, the first option is easy, the status quo.  Option one is to keep on doing what we are doing: “Let’s keep the budget sequence the same and live with some being turned in late”.  Option two is your desired outcome: “Let’s move up the deadline by two weeks and I’ll be responsible for following up with late comers”.  Option three can be a stretch or your best case scenario but you’re not sure the boss will go for it: “Let’s schedule a meeting one week before the deadline to go over everyone’s budget which will reinforce completing it on time”.  When there are three solutions, your boss won’t feel like it’s an ultimatum and will feel more in control.  Focus on the solutions.

3.  Sword.  You might need to fall on the sword.   Take responsibility for your part in the mess. “Boss, I didn’t follow up on those budget reports the way I should have.  It’s my fault that 50% missed the deadline.”  This might ensure that the rest of the team isn’t blind-sided and it should built authenticity if not trust with your boss.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a slice of the boss population out there that might abuse this but, if that’s the case; it might be time to update your resume.  In the meantime, fall on the sword.

4. Optimism.  Stay optimistic.  Focus on what is working.  It might be that we aren’t losing as much money as we did last year or that sales are flat but we aren’t losing ground.  It might be that you’ve retained your customer base or that your employee turnover rate is holding steady.  Find some nugget of good and emphasize the positive. As I have pointed out in previous posts, staying positive is the best for your brain and build better, stronger pathways to solutions.  Be optimistic.

5. Spine.  You’re gonna need a backbone.  Don’t cave if it’s something you believe in.  Explain the rationale in your thinking to your Gotcha boss.  If she can’t point out some flaws in your thinking, then remain steadfast.  Sometimes you just need to go with your gut and stand up for what you believe in.  If the boss doesn’t back you, work on your Linkedin profile and plan your escape.  Have a backbone.

These tips can help those of you who need a strategy to improve your relationship with your boss.  Some strategies won’t work.  Many years ago I worked for a boss who didn’t have my back and I was put in a precarious ethical situation with the corporate office.  I planned my escape and got out.  All the advice in the world isn’t going to fix an unethical situation.  Some Gotcha bosses can be turned around if you give it a try.