Quit Tolerating Crybabies


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I bet you have some employees, colleagues, family or friends who are crybabies.

Definition: In our SPONTANEOUS OPTIMISM® book, we define a pessimist as someone who loves to do three things:
1. Complain
2. Blame
3. Moan

They are “Loser Magnets” – because they magnetically attract other pessimists and crybabies who love to complain, blame, and moan.

In fact, they are “Emotional Vampires” who cherish every opportunity you give them to suck the good feelings right out of your skull.


If you think about it, an adult who wallows in complaining, blaming and moaning is, in reality, throwing the adult version of a child’s temper tantrum. An upset child will cry and kick and scream. Well, adults cannot do such “childish” actions. So, they do the more pseudo-intelligent thing: They
1. love to list anything that goes wrong (complain)
2. point fingers at how someone else goofed up (blame)
3. wallow in the emotional mud for as long as anyone listens (moan)

Recommendation: The next time you see an adult “bent out of shape, ” pause for a moment. Realize you are witnessing the adult version of a child’s tantrum.


Remember: If you ever lapse into considering whether to tolerate an employee’s whining, complaining, blaming and moaning, you absolutely must remember these four points:
1. This is not a game.
2. You are not playing house.
3. You are not operating a counseling center.
4. You are running a business – and that requires you to focus on your mission to improve profits and productivity.


Interesting research: Salvidore Maddi, Ph. D. , professor at U. of California – Irvine, studied 450 executives to find out how they handled various “stresses” on-the-job. About 2/3 handled stress poorly, and 1/3 handled it well. A large percentage of the people who handled work-related stress well had this in common: As children, they experienced extremely “disruptive stresses early in life, ” typically in their family life.

Useless aspect of this research: It is illegal – and unprofessional – to ask job applicants about non-work activities. As such, you should not ask an applicant if s/he experienced “disruptive stresses early in life. ” You are not even supposed to ask about an applicant’s family experiences. That would be a non-work-related question. (Note: Even if you did ask, it is doubtful the applicant would tell you about sticky childhood or family experiences, anyway!)

However, of course, you crave to hire people who handle well the roadblocks they encounter on- the-job. These roadblocks include failure, rejection, not making a sale, not achieving a goal, or someone giving the employee a hard time.


Since you cannot ask non-work-related questions in a job interview, what can you do to hire applicants who – when they encounter work difficulties – readily pick themselves up, figure out how to do better next time, and move on.

In fact, in my HOW WINNERS DO IT book and speeches, I emphasize, “The main difference between a winner and a loser is a winner picks himself up exactly one more time than a loser!”

Question: So, how can you spot an applicant who will “pick himself up exactly one more time?”

Solution: On the BEHAVIOR FORECASTER™ Test, we have two scales that help you predict which applicants handle obstacles well – Subjective Reactions vs. Objective Reactions Pessimism vs. Optimism

On the Subjective Reactions vs. Objective Reactions scale, someone who scores low (i. e. , Subjective Reactions) tends to be a person who gets upset, “bent out of shape, ” acts like a crybaby, or throws the adult version of a tantrum when things do not go their way they like. In contrast, someone who scores high on this scale (i. e. , Objective Reactions) tends to take difficulties in stride, figure out solutions, and move ahead in a mature, adult-like manner.

On the Optimism scale, people who score low (i. e. , Pessimistic) love to complain, blame, and moan. In contrast, applicants who score high on this scale (i. e. , Optimistic) prove to be confident, self-responsibly, “can-do” people who thrive on figuring out solutions to problems they encounter.

In fact, if you hire an applicant who scores high on Objective Reactions and also high on Optimism, you will have hired a mature, adult-like employee who exhibits resiliency and hardiness despite roadblocks.

Interestingly, when we conduct “benchmarking studies” to identify the FORECASTER™ Test scores of superstar employees, we quite often find superstars in many jobs in many companies score high on both Objective Reactions and Optimism.


If you feel upset or “bent out of shape” when you encounter roadblocks – or when someone gives you a hard time – here is what you can do to handle it successfully.

First, focus on the facts. One BEHAVIOR FORECASTER™ Test scale is Feeling-Focused vs. Fact-Focused. It tells managers whether an applicant likes to focus on feelings, emotions and personal topics (i. e. , like a social worker) or focus on facts and nitty-gritty details (i. e. , like an accountant or engineer).

Problem: Imagine the last time you got upset and threw an “adult tantrum. ” Most likely, you let yourself flounder in a Feeling-Focused mode.

Solution: To handle a crisis or difficulty in a mature, down-to-earth, pragmatic manner, you need to switch your brain into a Fact-Focused mode. After you listing the facts, you need to conjure up solutions. By focusing on facts of the bothersome situation, you can succeed in figuring out how to handle the problem, pick yourself up, and implement your solution.

Tip: “Focus on what you want – not on what you do not want”

- Dr. Michael Mercer & Dr. Mary Troiani in


Second, don’t play victim. Remember: People only can step on you if you keep lying under their feet! So, if you allowed someone to play the monster role while you play the victim role, do what an optimistic person does: Take personal responsibility for solving your predicament, rather than just complaining, blaming and moaning about the monster. And – most importantly – stand up for yourself.


I can read your minds! I know some of you “Managing to Succeed™” Newsletter readers are saying, “Well, I handle obstacles objectively and optimistically with a fact-focused attention to analyzing and solving the problem. But, what do I do about people around me who are pessimistic crybabies?”

Here is exactly what you need to do. The next time that crybaby strolls into your office and starts complaining, blaming and moaning about something, nicely say to the person: “I realize that bothers you. Now, please tell me what the possible solution is. ”

The pessimistic crybaby most likely will respond by saying, “I don’t know!”

Then, you look the person in the eye as you nicely but firmly ask, “Well, if you did know the solution, what would it be?”

In other words, you are teaching the crybaby to do exactly what optimistic, objective adults do: Focus on solutions – not on problems. Superstars in all walks of life invest the huge majority of their time focusing on solutions – not on problems.

In fact, you may be the first human being who ever showed the pessimistic, upset crybaby how to handle roadblocks and difficulties like an objective, optimistic adult.

Note: You will not transform them by doing this only once. I discovered I need to do this 10 or more times with a crybaby before the person finally learns – at least in my presence – to focus on solutions – not on complaining, blaming and moaning about problems.

In the outcome, you help a crybaby transform into an adult. Plus, you help your company and yourself by transforming one more employee into a more optimistic, “can-do, ” confident person.

© Copyright 2005 Michael Mercer, Ph. D.

Michael Mercer, Ph. D. , is a consultant, speaker, and founder of The Mercer Group, Inc.in Barrington, Illinois. Dr. Mercer’s “Abilities & Behavior Forecaster™” pre-employment tests are used by companies across North America. He has trained over 5,000 managers in how to interview job applicants. Dr. Mercer authored “Hire the Best - & Avoid the Rest™” and also “Absolutely Fabulous Organizational Change™”. You can subscribe for free to his management e-newsletter at http://www.DrMercer.com

Subscribe today and you can receive a 14-page Special Report entitled, “Hire Productive, Profitable & Honest Employees".


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