Managing Pessimists

There are pessimist people and there are pessimistic cultures as an article on France in the Economist points out.

Management techniques wrongly suggest that pessimism is something to be “turned around”; pessimistic attitudes are “”a “challenge” for managers, who are well equipped with a whole set of tools to create and foster optimism: vision, mission, wow-wowing, pep talking, motivational techniques, AI, and what have you.

Pessimistic culture are pessimist for a reason. The first thing we need to do is accept the pessimism.

No one (well almost no one) comes to Japan and tries to re engineer the national psyche to create individualists. No one goes to Asia and tells people to “put face aside” and be more “open”. Similarly, attempts to re-engineer the pessimist genetic code are doomed to fail.

Pessimist people have a very strong defence mechanism that has formed that attitude. People do not give up defence mechanisms easily, especially when the alternative is exactly what they are protecting themselves from, that is a rosy boy-scout yes we can attitude that sounds greats in a Tweet or coaching session with a gung-ho coach, but makes no sense.

I will propose 5 key points which may assist managing in pessimistic cultures and when dealing with pessimistic people.

1) Accept the pessimism;  do not try and change it.

2) Give low key messages, rich in facts,  analysis and critique and go easy/avoid hope, belief and wow wowism.

3) Identify the pessimistic statement that irritate you, and ignore them as much as you can.

4) Humour may work well to make a point if the pessimism is excessive.

5) Examine why pessimism rubs you the wrong way. When you really come to terms with this key question, managing pessimistic people and managing in pessimistic cultures will be far more intuitive.

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