The Pros and Cons of Being a Pessimist at Work

Last week, we discussed the pros and cons of being an optimist at work. The innovator, the visionary, the one who champions change, and the one who spreads positive vibes around the office. This week, we’re taking a closer look at the other end of the spectrum. The pessimist. More often than not the worrier, the cynic, the overanxious analyst, and the realist in the group.

Being the careful, pessimistic thinker may not seem as glamorous as being the optimistic game changer or creative in the team, but no workplace can function effectively without you. Too much positivity can sometimes be a bad thing, and you’re here to strike a balance. Because sometimes, a glass half empty is better than a glass that’s overflowing. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of being a pessimist at work.

The Pros of Being a Pessimist

If you’re a pessimistic thinker, you’re the first to feel out risks and the first to prepare for failure or disappointment. You’re better prepared than the optimist for disaster and you’re the most likely to have a contingency plan.

  • Good business decisions – research shows that defensive pessimism makes a better (smarter) gambler as they spend more time worrying about losses than celebrating wins. Therefore, they are less likely to put everything on the line. They are usually the best people in a team for making decisions that involve money, and they won’t run with something that could potentially harm the business. Every business decision is considered and calculated.
  • Boost productivity – having negative thoughts isn’t always a bad thing. Sceptical thinking helps us plan better, prepare better, and knowing the potential pitfalls can motivate us to work harder. So don’t be surprised if a pessimist gets more done than an optimist – they’re very good workers.
  • Good at risk management – if you’re a pessimist, you’re usually best at avoiding risks. This means you’ll be adept in risk assessment and always having a back-up plan. When projects go wrong, the optimists will turn to you for help.
  • Build long term relationships – whilst optimists have infectious energy and instant charm, a pessimist is sometimes better at building long term relationships. In any workforce, those relationships will be valued and are essential for maintaining strong partnerships with investors, clients and suppliers.

The Cons of Being a Pessimist

Whilst you’re better prepared than most and usually the one who steers the ship away from shark-ridden waters, you can also be a bit of a mood killer.

  • Negative attitude – being such a cynic is not only harmful to your mental health, but it can negatively impact on others. When a team needs reassurance, encouragement and inspiration, you may not be all that helpful.
  • Adverse to change – change is essential in any business and whilst an optimistic backs change at every opportunity, you’re much more reserved. It takes you longer to get used to a new concept which can appear counterproductive and often uncooperative to those around you.
  • Missed opportunities – in the same way that an optimistic thinker can miss potential warning signs, a pessimistic thinker can miss opportunities. The careful approach is good for assessing risk factors but can sometimes hold you back.