Predilection for negativity

Human beings seem to be wired for negativity. Research conducted in 2001* determined that 62% of every known ‘emotion’ word in the English language was negative versus 38% positive. The same study examined hundreds of articles on psychology and concluded that for a wide range of human behaviour and perception, bad is stronger than good.

I guess I touched on this a few weeks ago when I had a pop at Dilbert fans.

When people are shown photographs of bad and good events, they spend more time looking at the bad ones. When people learn bad things about people they remember it more than the good things. Marital problems and skin conditions sell magazines. Misery, depravity and dysfunction attracts viewers – just ask Jeremy Kyle.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to avoid gratuitous negativity on this blog. Not completely; that would be unreasonable. If I can achieve two thirds positivity versus one third negativity I’ll be happy as that will represent a positive contribution to blogosphere and I will be doing my bit to combat the human predilection for negativity.

I will lose readers for sure. I read the other day that two out of the top 3 global HR blogs for quality and influence are the ‘seasoned and cynical’ Laurie Ruettimann’s Punk Rock HR, where ‘team building is for suckers’, and My Hell is Other People, written by an anonymous British HR Director. I had a good look around both and they are without doubt a damn good read – but not because of their rosy outlook on life!

*Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer & Vochs (2001) “Bad Is Stronger than Good” Review of General Psychology, pages 323-370.

Say that again in English

Just 6 weeks ago I blogged about our use of Yammer. Since then another 60 members of staff have signed up and I’m delighted to report that our network is getting busier and busier.

However, the reason why I’m revisiting our Yammer story right now is because today one of our technical team chose to share the following message with us:

“Mockito 1.8.3 is out –… It just added in the ability to auto inject mocks which reduces boilerplate for your dependency injection code. Along with deep stubs, the argument capturing and native BDD support I’d say that it’s currently the best mocking framework for java.”

Now I’ve been working at Betfair for the last 18 months and I know that the company is widely regarded first and foremost as a technology company – and I consider myself reasonably tech savvy.

However when I read the above I first assumed it was some kind of Dilbertesque parody. When I followed the link I continued to believe it was some kind of bizarre technical satire. But the closer I looked, it began to dawn on me that it was genuine – as was the text reproduced above.

Do engineers really talk like this?

If they do then I’m in trouble. I think it may be time to enrol in some evening classes in tech speak – or perhaps Google have a technical translator app?

Dilbert and hypocrisy

I noticed this on page 42 of the recent Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For 2010 supplement.

It made me chuckle as it reminded me of an incident some time ago when I was asked to create a communications plan for a project that had no apparent project plan.

But now that I’ve shared this with you I’m feeling a bit grubby. I’m feeling guiltier than a blackcurrant knocking back a glass of Ribena – and I’m feeling the need to issue a bit of a disclaimer.

The thing is, I’ve never been a huge Dilbert fan as I think it’s all so depressingly negative. Don’t get me wrong, it can be very funny – if you think about it, lots of humour is depressingly negative.

Dilbert is a passenger. He stands there seemingly powerless to do anything positive or fix anything. All he does is mock the bleeding obvious. I reckon Dilbert fans identify with his frustrations and think that sharing a regular comic strip with their colleagues, apart from being funny, is their contribution to making things better. Actually what they are really doing is copying Dilbert’s impotence and inaction.

I’d wager that the spirit of Dilbert thrives most in organisations where people feel undervalued, ignored and doing meaningless work. If I were conducting cultural due diligence on a company, I’d just walk around the offices and count how many Dilbert strips are hanging off the walls.

That’s why I feel a bit grubby. But I can live with myself as I have at least gone to the effort of explaining my apparent hypocrisy.  And I did subsequently make a positive contribution to the production of the project plan I required on which to hang my comms plan, without taking the piss out of the project manager.