Are Others Drowning in Your Emotional Wake?

Are you this guy? The one who says what he thinks, often without thinking?

We’re talking about Big Larry. He leaves an emotional wake behind him wherever he goes.

“I need help handling Larry,” an exasperated Susan said when she called. “He’s never been a real upbeat guy. He exudes pessimism every time he opens his mouth.”

“And he doesn’t care who is around to hear it,” Susan continued. “It’s having a negative effect on his staff—well, really on all of us. I need to keep people optimistic and busy. His attitude is making that very difficult for me.”

Time for a talk

Susan needs to take Larry aside and have a frank talk with him. He probably doesn’t realize his negativity is having such an impact on his staff, as well as others. One thing he needs to realize is that he leaves an emotional wake wherever he goes.

Just as a motorboat leaves a wake behind it, Larry leaves a wake behind him. His negativity, like a boat’s wake, spreads far and wide.

If you’ve ever been in a canoe when a power boat comes ripping by, you know how you grip the sides of the canoe and pray you don’t end up in the water. So, the number one thing Susan needs to do is alert Larry that he leaves a wake that shakes up everybody else.

The second part of the discussion is that Larry needs to keep his mouth shut. A project manager is supposed to provide leadership to his team. Leaders do not go around complaining, fretting, worrying out loud, particularly about things they have no control over. They don’t criticize clients or coworkers. They look for solutions and ways to provide better service.


Furthermore, in focusing on the negative, Larry is simply attracting more negativity. What we look for is what we find. If you’re only looking for bad news, you only find bad news. You will skip right over any good news that is out there.

Susan also needs to be alert to her own thinking. If she has Larry pegged as a naysayer and complainer, it will be harder for her to see him improve his behavior and his thinking. She needs to keep her eyes open for new and better behaviors.

© Pamela A. Scott, 2015

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