Can You Really Choose Your Mood?

Team-building, management development and customer service gurus all espouse that we can CHOOSE how we feel at work: that we can decide when we get up in the morning to be positive, energised and solution-focused; or, (maybe after a difficult commute) to start the day feeling hard-done-by, complaining and powerless.

Is it REALLY that easy? if so, why are we so readily drawn to the Dark Side?

It’s like scratching an itch – looking for sympathy and allies when the ‘world’s against us’; a self-indulgence, “it’s not my fault”; the instant gratification of feeling important because our colleagues join with us in moaning about: the office; the bosses; the pay; that ‘other’ team; our customers…Ah, yes, the scratching feels good doesn’t it? but where does it get us?

the dark side

Is this how we want to feel at work? wouldn’t we rather feel powerful, achieving and, well, happy?

One of my leadership challenges a while ago, was to work with a team that had developed a pronounced negative culture – they believed no-one understood how hard their job was and that they got no support or recognition; almost all general conversation in the office was complaining or blaming; they felt overworked and unable to make a difference. Actually, some of this was a self-fulfilling prophesy, as other teams did not want to work with such negative people and their customers did not get a great service and rightly complained about them.

We tackled this head-on at a team meeting, talking about how bad everyone felt (see the list above) and then I led them through a process to imagine and define how they would like it to be – how would it feel to have a good day, to get things done, to enjoy spending time with colleagues, to have happy customers…..

golden moment

It was in fact easy to see how much their own attitudes and behaviour held them back from this positive future, but harder to understand how to break out of their negative cycle. We developed some shared principles that the team committed to try:

STOP thinking and saying:

  • It’s outside my control
  • I’m not allowed to…
  • It’s not my fault
  • Someone else should have…
  • I’m overworked
  • We can’t do that


  • all interactions with colleagues and customers with a “yes…”
  • focussing on what I CAN do
  • finding creative, alternative solutions
  • appreciating the impact on others
  • smiling!

and, most importantly, working as a team, praising positive behaviour and challenging (supportively) when colleagues are tempted towards the Dark Side.

Is it possible? Try it for a day and see……

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.”
— Henry Ford


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