In February, the Republicans vying to be the next president participated in a debate in South Carolina.  This seemed to be the most raucous debate to date in this election cycle as a number of candidates engaged in name-calling and personal attacks against others on stage.  While the hyperbole and verbal assaults made for entertaining television, the “circular firing squad” probably did little to help any of the candidates’ chances of becoming the next president of the United States. Since then, both parties have continued to get increasingly aggressive in their attacks towards each other.

There is a lesson to be learned here.  It is a common human instinct to try to elevate oneself by tearing others down.  However, trying to do so is often a foolhardy endeavor because such tactics hurt not only the intended targets but also the perpetrators of the assailments as well.  Let’s take a look at three reasons why putting others down usually backfires on those who attempt to get ahead this way. 

Reason One:

Putting those around you down alienates people and drives them away from you.  A person can’t aspire to be a leader if there isn’t anyone willing to follow.  Running down the people you associate with at work, at home, or in public will only usher negativity into your relationship with those people.  Such negativity may lead to a loss of confidence and self-esteem in the very people whom you need to build success, or it may cause these people to resent you and seek ways to end their association with you.  Some of them may actually become enemies and actively work against you.  

An old axiom says, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  It’s good advice to follow if you wish to build the types of relationships and coalitions that will elevate everyone involved and lead to higher probabilities of success through mutual cooperation.  This holds true both in your personal and professional life.    

Reason Two:  

Consistently exuding negativity will hurt your own credibility.  If people come to expect little more than negative reactions, insults, or sarcasm from you, they will have little reason to seek or heed your advice.  You may actually have some valuable constructive criticism or insights to offer, but you may not be able to find a receptive audience.  Others may react defensively to your suggestions because they have been hurt by you before, or they may dismiss your ideas out of hand because you have developed a reputation for destructive discourse and harsh overreactions.  Obviously, being a Pollyanna doesn’t do anything to enhance your credibility either, so learning to develop a judicious balance between when to offer praise and criticism will strengthen your credibility with your peers and perhaps lead them to seek your sound advice.  

Reason Three:  

The way you act now will affect your future.  An anonymous quote states, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.”  If you are not careful in cultivating and maintaining your relationships with others, you are in danger of losing trust with them now and in the future.  And if that happens, you may close off an untold number of opportunities that otherwise may have been open to you.  Once you’ve hurt those around you, it could take years to get them to open themselves up to you again, and you may find that they never do.  Furthermore, if you gain a reputation for mistreating people, you will likely find it  difficult to get people to work with you or even give you a chance to prove yourself in the future.  Working on developing and maintaining trust with others will pay dividends now and down the road. 

People who try to lift themselves or their enterprises up by pulling others down may indeed find themselves successful in bringing others down.  The problem is that they will probably find themselves falling right down with the people they hurt.  Rather than trying to find success through conflict and animosity, work for success by fostering respect, teamwork, and cooperation with those around you.  Doing so will give you a much better chance of achieving a lasting success, and in the process you will elevate not only yourself but also everyone around you.  

Is your organization struggling with a culture of negativity? We can help. Greg L. Thomas, our professional business consultant in Cleveland, specializes in helping small and medium-sized businesses turn their company culture into one that is more positive and successful. Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with Greg today or get a free quote.