j.c.'s Blog

(Oh wait: Just so you know, this is part of a series of posts inspired by startup weekend, starting off with this one.)

A negative attitude on your team can kill you.

That’s not precisely a surprise, is it? It’s also a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s go with it for a bit.

The team I was on at startup weekend was great. Almost everyone was 100% jazzed up the whole weekend, totally caught up in the fun of just building something. But we had our unhappy moments.

A major contributor to this was another member of our team. Said member made several good contributions early on, but became increasingly irritated when the rest of the team didn’t completely buy into that member’s vision.

The end effect was predictable. The team member was periodically spiteful or disparaging of the team’s efforts. This, inevitably led to 15 minutes per incident of depressed working or loss of work while gossiping about the negative team member. I have no idea if that may have made the team member more negative, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t. In the end I know I at least was not as personally productive as I would have liked to be.

You might think this point is about negative people screwing you up—and peripherally it is; you should certainly try to remove negative people from your team if you can.

But the more important thing to do is remove the negativity from yourself. The person who was largely in charge of the project maintained an incredibly positive energy the whole way through—he was never brought down by the negative team member’s comments, even though they clearly bothered him.

And that, my friends, is the attitude to cultivate. More important than not working with negative people—something you ultimately may not control—you need to make sure your attitude remains above theirs. If they’re negative, so be it. Remain positive. Focus on your work, not on disparaging remarks. Those who did that on our team stayed really productive throughout the weekend. Those who were less successful at staying positive in the face of negativity, like yours truly, weren’t as productive as they might have been.

I’m going to try to let go of any negativity I have on projects here on out. I challenge you to do the same.