Given their druthers, many would prefer to work with a moderately cheerful colleague, instead of someone who tends to see the dark side of a situation, but maybe they should reconsider. Studies suggest that our gloomier colleagues might have a valuable perspective to offer — one that relentlessly positive types might not be able to duplicate.
(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)
“Research by Kate Harkness from Queen’s University shows that people prone to depressed moods also tend to notice more details,” write Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener in their book The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self — Not Just Your “Good” Self, excerpted at The Science of Us. “This is particularly true when it comes to facial expressions. Happy-go-lucky individuals take in the broad strokes — okay, you have a nose and some eyes and it looks like your eyebrows are raised. The less upbeat folks in the Harkness studies, by contrast, were eagle-eyed when it came to facial expression, attuned to the smallest quiver of a lip or the slightest narrowing of the eyes.”
In short, depressive people might be better at reading social cues and facial expressions than their cheerier co-workers, as well as being more attentive to detail. Both of these qualities are valuable when it comes to working as a team … provided, of course, that the potential differences in temperament don’t make it impossible for everyone to get along.
If you’re a team leader or a manager, and want to get the best work out of your group, keep the following in mind:
1. Remember that everyone is valuable.
If you had a team full of Eeyores, you probably wouldn’t get very much done. However, a team devoid of folks who tend to see the potential pitfalls wouldn’t be a success either. The best-case scenario is a mixture of points of view. A temperament-diverse team means that you’re more likely to catch problems before they occur, but also be able to motivate and move forward.
2. Recognize the difference between being blue and being obstructive.
Appreciating your Eeyores doesn’t mean allowing your reports or teammates to spew negativity, unchecked. Ideally, your gloomier colleagues will have the ability to express their concerns in a professional way. If they don’t, help them learn how to do it.
3. Know your own bias and be open.
It’s hard to get along with people, whether you’re a look-on-the-bright-side type or the opposite. The best thing you can do, as a manager or a colleague, is to understand where you fall on the mood spectrum and keep your mind and ears open.
When it comes right down to it, people are more similar than they are different. Everyone wants to be heard. Listen to what they have to say, and you won’t have to worry that you’re missing out on ideas and points of view, just because you see things differently.
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Do you think cranky co-workers have a valuable point of view? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.