Perspective: Are You an 'O' or a 'X'?

Do you work for a good or a bad company?

This seems to be one question that we all get asked a lot. I attended a workshop about two years ago that brought light to this question more than I could have ever imagined.  The workshop was called the Leadership Challenge.  During this workshop, I participated in a group activity where we were all given a card with either an “X” or an “O” on it. The catch was you couldn’t share with others which card you had.  The card you had was reflective of the role you would play during the activity. If you had an X, you had to play the part of a “saboteur,” or someone who would go out of his or her way to make sure the puzzle was not completed correctly.  If you had an O, you were part of the team and your role was to make sure the group worked together to achieve the goal.

Throughout the activity, the O’s were told to be on the lookout for the X’s, or the people who seemed to be deliberately trying to prevent the group from being successful. If you had an O and you suspected someone was an X, you could make an accusation to throw the X out of the game, so long as you had at least one other person backing you up.  As the game progressed, people were accused left and right.  But the real surprise was at the end of exercise.

We were asked to all reveal the cards we pulled and, to our surprise, we found out that no one was ever given an X.  Our facilitator never told us if there were X’s in the deck; he simply said if you have an X play the role of the saboteur and if you draw an O you are a promoter of the activity.  We all ended up pulling O’s without knowing it.

The moral of this story is we as humans tend to believe what our colleagues or friends say and what appears to be true. And the minute someone plants a seed of doubt in us—that there could be saboteurs among us—it becomes easy to spot fault in someone.  It is also so easy for us to jump on the emotional bandwagon of others, especially when what they say is negative. Negativity spreads so much faster than positivity, so keeping an open mind is extremely important.

Try as hard as you can not to listen to others and let all that white noise clutter your own thoughts—don’t throw people out of the game! This theory applies whether it is in your personal or professional life. What I realized through the exercise is you have to trust yourself first before you trust the opinions and claims of others. Let me give an example of how this can apply to work. 

Whether you work for a small mom and pop shop or a corporate company, people will always gossip and complain.  They will complain about everything from pens not being stocked to how the owner of the company is acting. But none of that should affect how you feel at work. What I have learned throughout my many experiences at different companies is that you should pay more attention to those you know best—your team. Your team is your support system and when you have a great manager and great co-workers none of the other stuff matters.  We all know nothing is ever perfect, life is a rollercoaster and is full of ups and downs. Other people may have a bad experience with someone that you had a good experience with.  Don’t let other’s drag you down into the black hole. There is nothing more important than drawing your own conclusions and experiencing things for yourself. 

I want to wrap up with one of my favorite quotes.

“Our attitude towards life determines life’s attitude towards us.” – Earl Nightingale

Lauren Hill lives in Rhode Island where she works as the Sales Operations Manager at Carousel Industries. She has a BS in Graphic Design and despite her detail oriented and deadline-driven personality, she has a passion for the arts. She loves Starbucks coffee, the summer heat and is absolutely in love with her six-year-old English bulldog Winston.