How to Improve Your PM Skills: Get Grumpy

“Pessimism never won any battles.”
-Former President Dwight D Eisenhower

Stymied by an issue on your project?

How do you approach a problem: Talk to a colleague?  Take a walk? Change your focus   and come back to it later?

Modern science now has The Answer for you:

Get Grumpy.

A professor of psychology in Scientific American reviewed several of his studies and discovered that “people in a bad mood performed tasks better than those in a good mood.  Grumpy people paid closer attention to details, showed less gullibility, were less prone to errors of judgement and formed higher-quality, persuasive arguments than their happy counterparts.”

Can you believe this?

I’ve spent years trying to be positive and upbeat because good project managers are always “on” and a few studies later I learn that all that effort was futile?

I could have been better just by being a grouch?

Cranky = More Effective?

I’m not buying it. What about all the evidence and books I’ve read about Bad moods = Non-life-giving stories we tell ourselves?
I’ve read countless self-help books that told me that bad moods and attitudes were just a result of playing back past bad experiences or non-truths about reality. Now I’m supposed to chuck that idea out the window in favor of walking around with a dark cloud over my head?

When I’m in a bad mood, I’m not looking for options; I’m not thinking creatively; I’m using past experience to slap a label on the present and file it away so I no longer have to deal with it. Ideas on how to resolve conflict or address a problem by engaging the team are not at the forefront of my thoughts. Cranky=Less effective for me.

Being in a bad mood may be great for tasks where you don’t have to work with others, but it’s not useful in Project Management.

To Give Him Credit

What is true is that when I’m in a bad mood, risk management and finding gaps are easier because I’m looking for the crack in the plan or the soft logic in schedule. I’m remembering all my failures due to not “asking the right question” or pressing for more detail. Then I look even closer for problems.  But those times are best spent away from other people. Grumpiness doesn’t help you influence others. Anyone know of a Grumpy manager that “saved the day” due to his unrelenting bad mood?

This is one study that I respectfully disagree with in favor of my books on emotional intelligence and optimism.

Believe the science? Leave a comment, send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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