Don’t be that person in the office

By Gale Mote / Guest Editorial

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou

Have you seen those recent DIRECTV advertisements with Rob Lowe? He shows two versions of himself – supposedly one using DIRECTV and the other using cable – and implores watchers to not be the negative version of himself.

It’s easy for anyone to get into a rut. I often ask participants in my training classes if they have ever had a bad day. Consistently, 100 percent of hands fly into the air – and I raise my hand, too.

I then explain that when I am having a bad day, I get out of it for two reasons: one, I don’t like anything about myself when I am being that person, and second, the people who count on me each day don’t like that person much either!

Don’t be that person who is constantly complaining. Will Bowen states in his book, “A Complaint Free World,” that the average person complains about 20 times per day. Complaining is talking about what is wrong, what you don’t have or what you don’t want. Can you think about something that you complained about already today? The weather? Traffic? Your boss? Your children?

Complaining can be likened to bad breath. We notice it when it comes out of someone else’s mouth, but not when it comes out of our own!

Complaining is almost never accompanied by a solution. It’s about blame, excuses, finger-pointing and playing the victim. What’s more, negativity is contagious. Research from the field of positive psychology has discovered that if you have three people in a room, two will leave with the mood or attitude of the most expressive person in the room. Who are typically the most vocal and demonstrative? Those who are negative.

Don’t be that person who blames others, makes excuses and throws his colleagues under the bus. People lose trust, faith and respect for those who do not own their behaviors and results, good or bad.

Don’t be that person who believes the worst, expects the worst and lives in a world of hopelessness and gloom. Nobody ever damaged her eyesight by looking on the bright side of a situation.

Don’t be that person who is selfish and so wrapped up in himself that he is overdressed. (Thank you, Kate Halverson!) Never look down on someone else unless you are trying to help them up.

Be the person who has an attitude of gratitude. Wake up each morning and write down three specific blessings in your life. For example, I am grateful I live in a country where I can facilitate training classes on topics that I am passionate about to help others. I am grateful for my husband, because he makes me laugh out loud and keeps my life in perspective.

Be assertive, and practice positive affirmations. Say what you want – not what you don’t want. Rather than saying, “Stop interrupting me,” consider something like, “I would appreciate it if you would let me finish and then I would be happy to hear your opinion.” The brain moves in the direction of its dominating thought – make it a good one!

Be the person who admits her mistakes, focuses more on what she can control than what she has no power to change, demonstrates initiative and is a positive force for solutions. What is the next positive step you can take to move forward?  How can I help the situation to improve? Learn from your mistakes and move on. Forgive yourself and others. Devote yourself to spending your time on something more productive than worrying and carrying a grudge.

Winston Churchill famously said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” When you are having a bad day, do something nice for someone else – fill someone’s bucket with a kind word or a helpful hand with no expectations. Years ago, Dale Carnegie taught us that we can get more people to take an interest in us if we would just show more interest in them. It’s the law of reciprocity – what you give you get.

Focus more on how you can help the team rather than how you can grow your own career. Think about sharing the credit where credit is due rather than taking all the glory yourself. Trust your colleagues and give them the freedom to use their strengths and talents rather than control their every step. Keep focused on the collective goal and respecting every person’s role. No one can do it alone.




Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at