Negativity begets negativity

For many years, I have asked potential interview candidates, “what top two qualities would you look for from an employee if you were hiring them for your own company.” 

One of the most common answers is “honesty.”  

While I completely understand this response, it is not in-line with what I would be looking for.  

Not that I don’t believe honesty is important, far from it. I look at honesty like ISO9000, it should be a minimum, a given, nothing special in fact, very standard. 

If I am considering someone for a job and I don’t believe they are honest, I likely would not interview them. 

Another common answer I get to the above question is that potential employee should have experience related to and relevant to the work. 

On this, I do not disagree, yet once again, this is not in my top two qualities I personally look for. 

From extensive experience, I believe that given the proper tools, training and support, experience can be gained over time. 

For me, the top two qualities I look for is a positive attitude and a good work ethic. 

I have seen first-hand how someone with great experience can negatively impact their colleagues and workplace if they have a substantially negative attitude. 

HBR has even done research to try and measure the impact of a toxic employee. One study found that a toxic employee can have a 6x negative impact compared to a “good”employee. 

I have seen it with my own eyes. 

Some have argued that most human beings are inherently negative which I won’t disagree with.  

Yet, I have found that having negative thoughts in your mind and especially negative self-talk is very different than acting and behaving negatively in an outward manner. 

Indeed people are negative yet they are often beating themselves up and not projecting their negativity at or towards others in a conscious manner. 

On the flip side, those that act and behave negatively towards others on a consistent and regular basis can severely impact a team or organization. 

I have seen meetings go sidesways due to the negativity of one person. 

I have seen heads drop as one person start to speak. 

I have seen projects get derailed because people start bashing the project the moment they leave the kick-off meeting. 

Granted, I don’t expect people to be faking it either. If times are tough and things are not great, I don’t expect fake smiles and everyone pretending all is good. 

I don’t expect constant laughter and thank you statements just for the sake of pretending to be positive.  

It must be authentic, positive or negative, yet back to the question at-hand.

I would prefer a positive attitude over extensive experience any day of the week. 

The next quality I look for is a good work ethic. 

During interviews, I specifically will talk about the aspects of the job that a person might not enjoy. 

Someone with a good work ethic will understand that not every part of any job will be fun and enjoyable yet still might be very necessary to do and do well. 

Even on days you don’t feel great, those tasks might still need to get done. 

Someone with a good work ethic will also understand that their not doing their part might mean someone else has to pick-up the slack so they need to live up to whateverthey committed to.  

This is what having a good work ethic looks like. 

Now comes the curve ball. I will openly admit, early on in my career, in many instances, I was more negative than positive. 

I was spending so much time, effort and energy on the negative side of things, I could not understand how come nothing positive was coming. 

Until I did. 

I realized that like a muscle, if you feed it, work at it, it will grow. 

I was placing so much towards negativity, the negativity begate more negativity; like a muscle it grew. 

When I realized this, truly realized it, I worked to change and when I altered me attitude, I altered my life. 

By spending my time, effort and energy towards positive thoughts, actions and behaviours, positive thing started to happen. 

I was able to go back to graduate school, I was able to expand my networks of friends, I was able to learn and grow. 

Before this, for years I was stalled knee deep in negativity. 

We all slip toward negative thoughts and even negative self-talk, the key is to catch yourself or have someone you trust help you identify when you are veering and dial it back. 

Even when times are tough, my first thoughts might veer towards the negative then I recall one of my favorite quotes of all time.   

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchil

After reminding myself of this quote, I work towards positivity, yes, it takes deliberate practice and time. 

Lastly, for those that might recognize they have a negative attitude that results in negative actions and behaviours especially towards others, I have one simple question for you.  

How is that working for you?  

If you are not sure, ask those around you to tell you the impact of your actions and behaviours have on them. 

I recognize this would take a great deal of courage to ask. It would take someone great courage to openly answer. If they avoid your question or give you no answer, that might be an answer.  

If they answer “I love your negativity, it helps so much and feeds my soul,” run, you might be talking to Lucifer. 

Positive food for thought.