Avoid the Water Cooler – Negative Thinking Stays with You

Have you ever wondered why the conversations around the proverbial “water cooler”, otherwise referred to as the “meetings after the meeting”, are so typically negative?

If you’ve studied human evolution and survival it will not come as a surprise that we are wired to pick up on negativity. After all, back in the days of the cave men if you missed signals that indicate trouble was afoot your physical survival could very well have been at risk.

Science tells uspicking up those survival signals was primarily based on emotion:

“Emotions Before Reason. In an uncertain world, those who survived always had their emotional radar—call it instinct, if you will—turned on. And Stone Age people, at the mercy of wild predators or impending natural disasters, came to trust their instincts above all else. That reliance on instinct undoubtedly saved human lives, allowing those who possessed keen instincts to reproduce. So for

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human beings, no less than for any other animal, emotions are the first screen to all information received.” ~Nigel Nicolsen

Being socially outcast for any reason could cost you your life.

That wiring tends to naturally feed negativity and can fuel skepticism and pessimism in an organization’s culture. Perhaps that’s why all too often the skeptics are revered as wise and the optimistic are accused of drinking the corporate Kool-aid. The unfortunate reality is that natural optimists are few and skeptics are many.  

This means it takes hard, conscious work to continuously fuel positivity and optimism enough for this mood and perspective to prevail in any organization’s culture.

Yet perhaps the most important question here is why does it matter?

After all, tending to the negative vibes is part of how we have survived this long as a species so why fight so hard to overcome our natural instincts?

Consider that it matters because all that negative energy and pessimism is actually bad for your health. Yes, those juicy, gossipy, water cooler conversations, despite how satisfying and exciting they may seem while we engage in them, are a destructive force for both individuals and organizations.

According to Harvard Medical School in a publication titled Living to 100: What’s the Secret? –  Optimism has been proven to improve health and is linked to longevity.

What if we looked beyond fitness facilities and employee-wellness programs that support us in being healthy in our off-time, and instead considered what we can do every day during work hours to improve our health and overall wellbeing?

Maybe if we exercised the muscle of optimism more in the workplace we would even have the extra energy and motivation to get to the gym instead of the less healthy alternatives we all too often indulge in to help us leave behind the negativity and pessimism of the day.

What do you do to infuse optimism in your workplace?


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CEO of Clarus Works, Susan Mazza works with leaders and their teams to create exceptional performance, relationships and work environments. She has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders by Trust Across America/Trust Around the World in 2013/2015 and has also been named a 50 Top Thought Leader in Leadership and a Top 100 Conference Speaker in Inc. Susan is the author and founder of the highly acclaimed blog, Random Acts of Leadership™, named a top 50 leadership blog and one of the top 100 most socially shared Leadership blogs in the world. She has also co-authored two books, The Character-Based Leader and Energize Your Leadership. Her soon to be released Leading In Action System™ offers a refreshingly simple yet potent method to developing the leadership mindset and skills essential to effectively and authentically leading to make a difference where you work and live. For more information visit www.RandomActsofLeadership.com.

  • There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

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