Something to Think About - Gloomy Gus
By: Dr. Michael R. McGough
He was reasonably well educated, enjoyed an upper middle-class lifestyle, and engaged in the typical range of professional and social activities in his community. He was a family man who had worked himself up through the ranks of local and state government agencies. He held a responsible position and supervised a number of folks within his department.
His career started out strong and his progress was steady. But somewhere in mid-career, his progress slowed and finally stopped all together. When it stopped, it never again started. The second half of his career was a stagnant period where the years ran together into a slow crawl to retirement. He welcomed the opportunity to retire, and most of the folks who worked with him were also pleased that he had the opportunity and finally took it.
During the second half of his career he had become the office Gloomy Gus. There wasn't a project, a proposal, an idea or a suggestion about which he could not offer a host of negative reactions. He could find a potential problem in every situation. He was a pessimist personified and an accomplished cynic. Even when the news was good, he could find something negative in it. Every suggestion from co-workers was met with rebuffs of potential problems. His misgivings about most everything were often comical because they were so predictable. When someone new joined the group they were often frustrated and put off by his negative musings, but in time most of his co-workers just laughed behind his back and moved on. They humored and ignored him at the same time.
There seems to be one of these characters in every group, on every team, and families often have one or more with which to contend. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are of no particular age, gender of background. Sometimes they are well educated, and other times they are not. They know no particular financial status, and they show up in every profession, line of work and social endeavor.
These critics, perpetual naysayer if you will, always find fault. Some are very overt, while others take a more covert approach, just asking enough questions to raise a little doubt. They seldom offer anything new, creative or original, because they are so busy finding fault with the suggestions, proposals and plans developed by others. Regardless of the situation, they find something negative to throw into the conversation. In time it becomes their role in the group. Its generally not a coveted or respected role, but is rather one that is tolerated.
To be sure there are any number of motivations that may lead someone to become the group's wet blanket. From my observations they are often smug, assuming that they are the only ones in the group smart enough to find the flaws. I've often thought that they must think themselves pretty clever to be able to throw a monkey wrench into the works at every bend of the road.
At different phases in his career, President Teddy Roosevelt had to deal with such folks. Roosevelt aptly described them and shared his frustration with them when he said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. . ."
By the way, if your group, team, office or family does not have at least one of these characters, take a good look at yourself--it may just be you!