After a recent holiday break visiting friends, my spirits were high. An awful drive home in holiday traffic did little to change my positive mindset. I sat down today determined to write something upbeat. “Any ideas for my public relations column?” I asked a friend. “I want to stay positive because I’m tired of writing about public relations disasters.”
My friend, in her infinite wisdom, threw my words right back at me.
“So write about that. [Staying positive] is the best career advice I [have ever received],” she told me, noting that the advice came from her cousin, then a senior vice president and partner at a major public relations firm.
I thought about positivity and negativity earlier in the year when I was asked to fill out an employee review worksheet. In the past, I would have probably blown off such a chore, but I was happy with my job, in large part because the environment is so positive. Pondering what to write for my review, I thought of one particular incident where I was so negative that my presence was destructive. This incident needed to be brought up, not buried.
“It was obvious that during the discussions about [the project] that I was of little, or more likely, no help, and this was inexcusable,” I told my bosses. “[My co-worker] being put in charge of [the project] sent a message.”
I’ve thought about that incident for months now, wondering why I was so negative. Was I in a bad mood that day? Was the project something that I didn’t believe in? If so, why not? Everyone else in the organization was excited about the project; why wasn’t I? I’m better than that and my co-workers deserved better. All I can do now is learn from the mistake, which I believe I have.
Since recognizing how my bad attitude was detrimental, I’ve done everything in my power to stay positive. In doing so, I’ve become a better listener. I’m slower to respond to new ideas and challenges, but only because I want to make sure I give the issue a proper evaluation. Even if it’s just taking a few additional minutes, I’ve found myself handling challenges much better since that unfortunate burst of negativity.
I’m not just a better listener, I’m a better thinker. When something negative occurs, instead of worrying and whining, I try to find out what went wrong to avoid having to deal with the same negative issue twice. Resolution is not always easy, but it feels a whole lot better than a repeat performance.
My mother, who ran a business for two decades, was fond of telling me that I needed an “attitude adjustment.” This comment would come out when I acted petty or childish. I always imagined a socket wrench attached to a mechanism in the back of my head. A quick turn of the wrench and my attitude would instantly change for the better. It’s not that easy, of course.
Staying positive is not an easy task, especially in an environment like public relations. Doing the opposite, however, is just as difficult. It’s simply draining being negative all the time, for yourself as much as for those around you. Molehills become mountains, cuts become infected, and clouds turn into storms. I’ve had to work in situations where negativity was the guiding force. I’ve seen it creep into the fabric of an organization, eventually spreading its gloom before totally enmeshing all those in its vicinity. It’s ugly and destructive.
Now is a good time to ask yourself whether you or your organization is in need of an “attitude adjustment” when it comes to the world of public relations. Sit down and make a list of all the negative things that have occurred this year at your job. Figure out how they can be corrected and avoided in the future.
Did a lack of communication contribute to the problem? A lack of knowledge? A poor attitude? A mistake or a misunderstanding? Or was it simply something that was unavoidable?
You can change the tenor of your workplace. In doing so, you’ll not just practice more effective public relations, you’ll be a happier person.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.