Passive Pessimism

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Just like passive smoking, some people spread their habits freely, tainting others who would not normally take part in the negative activity. Every international school has them, and if you are really unlucky there may be several. We all have our ups and downs from time to time and I am sure that I have also been guilty of it in the past, but there are some colleagues who are determined to find the negative aspects in every situation like every silver lining has a dark cloud attached.


Guaranteed to drag the mood down in the most cheerful of staff rooms, they enter scanning the room for their next victim. Their eyes lock on. You glance to the left in a vain attempt to join somebody else’s conversation. You glance to the right and in your horror, there is an empty seat. That sinking feeling sets in as the slow realization that you are now the prime target. A million exit strategies run over in your mind but none really settle quickly enough. It is too late. The Naysayer has you in their sights and is rapidly moving in. You clutch tightly on to your steaming hot coffee mug partly due to the intense gaze of the incoming predator and partly in a vain attempt to ready yourself for the pain that is heading your way. You hope that by sheer facial expressions alone or focusing on giving of “leave me alone” vibes that you may well repel the beast, but no. There is no escape. Like mouse being enveloped by a determined python, you realize that resistance is futile, your fate is sealed. The only option is to wait it out and escape as soon as the grip loosens.


During the 20-minute haranguing you occasionally look for someone to rescue you but it is too late. All the other colleagues are simply relieved that they managed to escape this time. All the rumors and worst-case scenarios have been shot at you like a firing squad. Your head is now full of poisonous negativity seeping into every inch of your body and now that your day is ruined and that you have also been dragged over to the dark side the killjoy slithers off to find another victim.


Sound familiar? I worked with one woman a few years ago that complained about everything. During staff meetings, collective groans rang out when “any other business” was announced and of course she always had plenty to share at 17:00 when everyone was itching to get home or to a bar. From the seat she sat on in class, to the curriculum, the children, management, the location of the school, her apartment (which she choose) and just about everything you could think of. I like to think that I am a sympathetic guy but there is only so much that you can take. The constant negativity ground me down to the point where I wanted to scream at the top of my voice “If it is so bad then why don´t you leave”? I never did but I sometimes wish I had.


My advice to those who are truly unhappy is to move on and find somewhere more suitable. Carefully study your next location and school to see if it is right for you. For those who are ok with where they are but moan anyway, stop! Think about how your words are affecting others. Choose your moments and don´t run and tell everybody the minute something has annoyed you. Like the boy who cried wolf, your grievances will not be taken seriously if they are frequent and petty. Your passive pessimism is infectious and soon it can spread like a virus. Put your problems into perspective and ponder how important they really are. There may be other colleagues who are experiencing terrible personal and family troubles who have to listen to the trivial issues that you constantly spout. So please my gloomy co-workers please stub out your cynical tendencies or go to a designated area to indulge in your habit without affecting others.


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