Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Cancer of Negativity

Note: Every month our local newspaper, the Casey County News, graciously affords me valuable space to contribute an article on behalf of our local Chamber of Commerce. The below article ran in last week's paper. I almost didn't send it in because I thought it might be too personal and not "newsy" enough, but I have received more comments about it from our local residents than any other article I've written in the past 2 years. On the assumption that maybe I did something right, I thought I would share it here.

Five years ago I almost got fired.

It was a shocking experience, because nothing like it had ever happened to me before, and I never saw it coming.

For years I had been a sales manager with VERITAS Software, and a good one at that. But the head of our department – my boss – was entirely self-serving. Under his “leadership”, a similar attitude was bred among most of my fellow managers, and while they were busy furthering their careers, indulging in 3-hour lunches, and pretty much doing as they pleased, their employees lived in a neglected, hostile work environment.

I tried to keep myself apart from my peers as much as possible. I was committed to those who worked for me, rather than for myself. My own employees frequently told me how glad they were that they had me as a boss, while many others told me that they wished they did.

And then one day we got a new department head, and everything changed.

I loved my new boss. He was down to earth, grounded, and dedicated to doing the right things for the right reasons. 3-hour lunches were suddenly a thing of the past.

I felt a great deal of excitement, not only at the prospects of what the future might hold, but also in the knowledge that my self-serving peers were finally going to get what they deserved.

So imagine my surprise when less than 2 months later I found out that it was my head on the chopping block. I went home that day with an ultimatum from my new boss: “decide if you want to work here, but know that even if you say yes, one more mistake and you’re gone”.

I spent that night in a confused daze, trying desperately to understand what was going on, until finally, I had no other choice but to look at myself. I didn’t like what I saw.

Ever since my new boss arrived, I had been waiting for my fellow managers to get what they had coming to them. What I hadn’t noticed, however, was that none of them were acting selfishly anymore; now that they had a true leader, they were working together as a team for a common good.

But I wasn’t.

Because of my own vengeful desire, I was working for their failure, and as a result, every word I said was motivated by that desire, and it was all negative. Without even realizing it, I had somehow allowed myself to become the very thing that I had always fought against.

Instead of being a pillar of strength for my new boss to lean on, I had become his biggest problem. I was a cancer that was eating away at his organization from within, and like any cancer, I had to be removed in order for the body to live.

Understanding this brought me incredible amount of relief, as well as an equal amount of shame. This was not who I was. Luckily, I still had a chance to prove it. So I did. I forgave the past, I let go of my hate, and I started clean. From that point on, everything was different. Everything was better.

So what does this have to do with commerce?

All of the organizations here in Casey County – whether individual businesses or the community as a whole – have a lot of issues to deal with. The good news is that there are a lot of good people working really hard to make things better. But there are also a fair number of people who have allowed themselves to become predominantly negative in the comments that they share.

The irony is that those people who voice negative comments truly do want things to get better, and yet their own negative words actually work to prevent things from changing.

All of us would like to see a brighter future for Casey County; for our businesses, our organizations, our churches, and our community as a whole. But to accept a brighter future, we have to walk away from the past. We have to let it go.

There is no other way.


Anonymous said...

Not to be negative but you might be getting resistance because you might not be as responsive as you might think or hearing the needs of your locale. Do you answer people's concerns or emails the way you want to be treated, for example, by local merchants (eg. your editorial a few weeks/months ago about service: vendors taking the time for the customer in front of them vs. on the phone type thing)? Sometimes you have to work with what is before you can change it or be open to other ideas yourself, or at least responsive to others. If you come in with all the answers and don't see other solutions, that can also hinder the process. Just a helpful thought.

Signed, Been there/Done that

Anonymous said...

"Not to be negative but..."

I love how that is started on a topic titled The Cancer of Negativity! One can't help but know right off that you (Been There/Done That) are going to be...dare I say it? Negative?!

I have to ask, Been There/Done That, did you even read the article?

If anything, I don't see Blaine Staat as one who comes in thinking he has all the answers. Suggestions, thoughts, ideas...yes. All the answers? No. He does try and that is more than I can say especially for someone who calls themselves Been There/Done That. Sounds like you gave up and gave in. Some how, I don't see that as Mr. Staat's style.

I have to wonder in your statement up there, you know, the one after you not being negative and all, if you have maybe made a comment to Blaine and it didn't go the way "you" wanted it or the way "you" thought it should be done? Did you ask him or talk to him about it? Or where you too busy being negative and hindering any process yourself? Maybe you thought, I have already tried that and it won't work so no need in trying anything new. Maybe that is it right there. Someone has come in and stolen your thunder! Funny thing here is, Mr. Staat does not take credit for what is going on here in Liberty. Anytime I have mentioned to him about the job he is doing here, he has always deferred the credit to others.

Understanding the new blood coming into our little county, they have been there and done that too and will not tolerate poor customer service (i.e., having a personal phone call while they, being the paying customer, stands there and waits for you to finish - they will take their business elsewhere, or calling someone to do repairs only to have to wait 2 weeks for them to finally show up and get mad because you found someone else from another county to do the job - gee go figure on that one...), I could go on.

The point here is that new people will not tolerate this way of doing things. They know they don't have to and will take their business to another county or worse yet...Wal-Mart.

If businesses here in Casey County want to be successful, they will have to look at things differently. They can't treat people in this manner and continue to think that it is okay.

If they want customers to come back they will have to think of ways to keep them coming back not running them off!

Is this not what has been offered in Mr. Staat's articles? Or were you not reading those either?

Blaine, there are quite a few of us who appreciate all you are trying to do for Liberty. You are a breath of fresh air and much needed around here. Thank you!

As far as Been There/Done That up there...I think you hit a nerve!

Catherine said...

YIKES! This was not very nice from either poster. I admire you for allowing "Anonymous" postings -- I had that for a while and was getting nasty posts from a disgruntled family member.

I think you are in a tough spot no matter what you do as you can't please everyone all of the time, that's for certain. I'm sure with patience and time and the hard work that you are giving it, the rewards will be great.

I plugged Liberty's "Paint the Town" initiative (after a quote from the guy at and also your website in a recent article for Donna Carmen's "Discover Casey County" deal. I hope both mentions remain in the (already quite long) article!

Catherine Pond

Blaine Staat said...

Yeah, there was another comment back; I decided not to publish it. I normally publish all comments unless they are obscene, but I didn't think that allowing a squabble to continue back and forth provided a whole lot of benefit for anyone.