I was once the newest member of the “Downer Club.” I didn’t realize it at the time, and we never called it that, but that’s exactly what it was.
We all worked for the same company, and I was the brand new sales rep, naive and eager to please. So after a few weeks on the job when I was invited to join a co-worker for breakfast, I jumped at the chance. After all, I wanted to make friends and fit in, and here was a great opening to do just that. And it got even better, because when we arrived at the restaurant I was surprised to see three or four of our co-workers already at the table. Apparently this group get-together took place on a regular basis, often every week, and now I had been invited in!
We re-introduced ourselves around the table, placed our orders, and started to chat over coffee. And I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that this wasn’t just a periodic gathering of colleagues — it was a 90-minute-long gripe session. Sometimes it went even longer, as one after another my new co-workers started dredging up a litany of issues: times when the boss had chewed them out unfairly…times when accounts had been shifted arbitrarily…times when commissions had been calculated incorrectly. Two things became clear to me: first, that my fellow salespeople hated their jobs; and, second, that they loved getting together to talk about it. I sat there silently absorbing this endless list of corporate malfeasance on the part of my brand new company, and before I had finished my scrambled eggs I was wondering — “When I took this job, did I make a terrible mistake?!”
Welcome to the Downer Club.
Did I have the good sense to stop going after that first negative encounter? Are you kidding? Of course not! I wanted to fit in, to be part of the group. I had been a sales rep for maybe twenty minutes and I figured hanging around with my so-called colleagues would be a good, productive way to spend my time. And after a few of these breakfast gatherings I got to where I could come up with negative sob stories just like everybody else. The Downer Club had initiated a new convert. What I soon discovered was that I felt great during those breakfast sessions, hanging with my so-called friends, but I felt lousy afterward — negative about my job, my boss, and myself. The false high of being part of the peer group quickly gave way to the hangover caused by an overdose of negativity.
I lasted in that job about six months. Could I have stayed longer, done better and not violated my boss’s trust in me when he hired me? Probably. But whether or not the job was the right one isn’t the point. I see now that my desire to run with the pack caused me to make toxic decisions. The so-called “power of positive thinking” may not be absolute, but I can attest to the power of negative thinking! It is guaranteed to be corrosive to your enthusiasm and productivity!
So here’s a question for you: when it comes to your work, who is on your “Mental Committee”? Do you surround yourself with people who pick you up or who bring you down? I suggest that some self-examination may be in order. As for me, I changed jobs, got into a much healthier environment, and quickly came to realize that I had been part of the problem, choosing to surround myself with the wrong crowd. How about you? Is it time to turn in your membership card to the Downer Club?