How Optimists and Pessimists Can Get Along

Opposites may not necessarily attract in business, but they can make your team a more productive whole.

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How Optimists and Pessimists Can Get Along
Image credit: DrAfter123 | Getty Images
5 min read
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How often do conflicts occur in your enterprise because someone proposed ill-considered or insufficiently thought-out ideas? What about because someone opposed innovative, out-of-the-box ideas?

If you have either problem, you might be plagued by two very common cognitive biases: the optimism bias or the pessimism bias

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cognitive biases.

As a result, both groups felt defensive and had negative relationships with each other. The optimists perceived the pessimists as naysayers who never allowed good ideas to go forward. The pessimists perceived optimists as always going off half-cocked and coming up with flawed efforts.

Related: Being Too Optimistic Is Bad for Your Business

Different From Each Other, But Stronger Together

For instance, optimists should be allowed and encouraged to generate ideas while acknowledging that all ideas are half-baked. Pessimists can then focus on taking these half-baked ideas and baking them further, instead of merely shooting them down.

That was the focus of the changes I worked on at the aforementioned healthcare enterprise when I was brought in to address the problems in collaboration and improve employee engagement. I especially emphasized the importance of having at least two devil’s advocates on a team. Our society usually tends to see pessimism as negative, whereas in reality, research shows

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Finding the Balance

On the other hand, if you have just pessimists in a group, they won’t create nearly enough new ideas for the needs of our increasingly disrupted world as they would find fault at every turn. This was fine a generation ago, but not now.

Related: The 5 Benefits of Being Optimistic

Mixing It Up

Given that a balanced group of pessimists and optimists can lead to better collaboration and improved employee engagement, it makes sense to be mindful when hiring employees, especially leaders, for your organization.

Be aware that it’s very hard to go against your intuition and hire someone different from you

promoting people to higher positions

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to be aware of and learn to defeat these cognitive biases. Only by doing so will you be able to make good decisions in hiring and collaboration, whether regarding pessimists and optimists, and in all other areas of your business.












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