Optimists are positive, upbeat, and enthusiastic. Pessimists are realistic, cautious, and somewhat negative. Optimists are full of ideas. Pessimists tend to oppose new ideas because they focus on all of the bad things that could happen if those ideas were put into practice. Thus, this can sometimes lead to conflict at work.

On a team composed of optimists and pessimists, the optimists might feel angry and discouraged that the pessimists are always shooting holes in their ideas and preventing them from moving forward. The pessimists might feel annoyed that the optimists are always presenting unrealistic, underdeveloped ideas, and forcing them into the role of “the bad guy.” Both groups might secretly wish that they could work in teams in which everyone was like them – all optimists or all pessimists. But according to author Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, this would be bad for the organization.

  • In a group with all optimists, it’s likely that everyone would enthusiastically embrace new ideas without fully thinking through all of the possible ramifications. A phenomenon known as “groupthink” may also come into play. This is when bad decisions are made because the group members want to be positive and cohesive, and don’t want to voice a dissenting opinion.
  • In a group with all pessimists, it’s likely that not a lot of new ideas will be generated, because everyone will be too focused on the negatives. As a result, not a lot of progress will be made and necessary changes will not occur.

Tsipursky believes that the best teams include a mix of people. It’s important to have optimists who are enthusiastically generating ideas, as well as pessimists who play the role of the “devil’s advocate” and point out the flaws in those ideas. This is the only way that a team can develop a truly effective approach.

And according to Tsipursky, you can avoid conflict if everyone on the team has the right mindset. The optimists must understand that they’re needed to generate exciting new ideas – but that every idea needs to be developed and refined. And the pessimists need to know that they’re also essential, because it’s their job to take the ideas and shape them into something viable and effective.

Tsipursky, G. (n.d.) How optimists and pessimists can get along. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/348115