Are you a radiator or a drain?


In my last blog “I’m not being listened to!” I suggested a few challenging thoughts about questioning our relationship with work and in this blog I’d like to take the subject a little further.

Two of the best CEOs I’ve ever worked with have a similar view about people being positive in the work place. One of them is Duncan Tait the CEO for EMEIA/USA for Fujitsu the IT Corporation. Duncan leads a business that turns over in excess of $12 billion in revenues. His mantra is that business is about three things:

  1. Never forget you have a choice about how you behave in the work place; you are in control of your own attitude and actions.
  2. Always be outcome focussed – trying is all well and good but did you achieve the outcome?
  3. You have a duty to be optimistic; not unrealistically optimistic but there is no place for serial pessimists.

These three principals have stood Duncan well in his career and help to create a very positive atmosphere in the businesses that he leads.

The other CEO I would put in the category of best CEO is Peter Beeby a Sheffield Entrepreneur who built a business from scratch to over £12 million and with it created the concept of an employee owned company called School Trends which he left in the hands of the employees when he exited the business some years ago.

Peter had a similar view of the responsibility we all have to be positive in the workplace, and he had a unique way of describing negative behaviour. Peter maintained that negative behaviour polluted the environment in a similar way to smoking. If someone comes into the office in a bad mood we can sense that mood from their body language and their responses. We end up ‘tiptoeing’ around that person or ‘walking on eggshells’ for fear of causing upset. It is as if the bad mood has drifted to the rest of the office like the smoke from a cigarette; and our mood is negatively affected I the same way that a passive smoker is affected by the smoke from someone else’s cigarette.

Despite the fact that Duncan lives in the world of international corporations whilst Peter was representative of the entrepreneurial culture both men are leaders who believe that choosing to be negative is an unacceptable choice because it affects the people we work with.

So are you a radiator or a drain? As I once explained on a radio station, (to the amusement of the presenter who initially thought I was referring to items found in a builders merchants) radiators are the people who radiate positivity; they smile, they see the glass as half full, they interact in a friendly and cheerful manner with their colleague refusing to engage in moaning and negativity. The drains, on the other hand, are those who are constantly focussed on the negative things in life; they scoff and sneer at the radiators and only want to talk about how bad everything is at work. They drain the energy out of anyone who tries to challenge their negativity and they relish the prospect of bringing others to the same negative conclusions they have reached.

Bad mood

Drains are not bad people; they are sad people. Many of them do indeed have difficult lives and challenging circumstances, however it is their choice of technique for making themselves feel better which is so destructive. In a perverse way their own low mood becomes less troubling to them if they see other people share their negative opinion. In psychology it is known as the concept of Universality – If I feel very downhearted and negative about the world it makes me feel just a little better knowing that I am not the only one who feels this way.

It is absolutely fine to have sympathy for the drains; but essential not to share their mindsight as this lowers our own mood. It helps if we remember Duncan Tait’s first point in his three point list – never forget you have a choice about how you behave in the work place; you are in control of your own attitude and actions.

It’s about choices, so go on, choose to be a radiator!

choose happy

Post By Dr Rick Norris

Next week we will look at what it really means to be realistically optimistic and how this can prevent disaster!!!


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