Priya Sunil tells us why it’s so important to take a walk on the positive side, and stop focusing too much on the negative.

We’ve all been there – we find ourselves in a sticky situation, or things are happening all around us, and we brood our hours away over the negative. In fact, we might still be doing it – sometimes it just feels so much easier that way, than to look for a positive side, right?

Personally, having pursued media studies for a good few years before taking on this role, I’ve observed time and again that bad news sells – right there in the headline, it draws the readers in. But only when I really got into the business of writing news did I realise, wait a minute, the good news sells great too!

And this can very well be applied to life – it’s time to stop letting the bad outweigh the good in a situation. Sure, bad things happen, but as they say, there’s always a silver lining. Focus on it, no matter how thin it is because truly that will not just help you grow professionally, but also help build resilience and personal growth.

The strategy you put your heart and soul into has not been well-received by employees? Allow yourself to feel bad about it, but also see it as a chance to challenge yourself more, and push your and your team’s limits further.

Or, if we look at it in today’s context, has your workforce been placed on a four-day workweek to cope with cost-saving measures? That’s not as bad as you think – use the day off to do that thing you never had time for (pursue a course, learn yoga, or just make sweet potato patties)!

Overall, how can you as a leader help both yourself and your employees see the silver lining when something goes wrong?

First, take a step back and think – ‘This happened. How can I solve it, and what can I learn from the process?’ If it’s something your employee is involved in, help them see the learning point. I’m thankful I have a manager who, when I made a mess at work recently, helped me see how that one situation played a role in building up my character and resilience.

In the same vein, Genevieve Goh, Director, Talent Management at Mastercard, tells me about the firm’s decency quotient (DQ), which plays a key part in how it helps employees focus on the positives, even in challenging times. “Essentially, DQ means treating people with care and respect. By approaching every problem through the lens of, ‘how can we do right by people in this scenario?’, it allows us to make decisions and take action around issues (such as benefits) with our employees’ wellbeing as our first priority. This gives employees peace of mind and the mental space to focus on helping our customers and partners, which in turn, creates a more positive experience for everyone.”

On a personal level, she believes it’s important to embrace your emotions and accept that it is normal to feel scared, anxious or even angry. She adds: “However, I balance this out by taking time to pause for reflection. I find reflection to be an incredibly simple and powerful technique that helps me to reset my thinking. I often talk to employees about the importance of looking back and reflecting, and how this is just as important as looking forward because it helps us to be calm and better prepared when we make our next move.”

Similarly, referencing the current pandemic, Nagalingam Subramaniam, HR Director-Asia Supply Chain, Hanesbrands, says this new environment has educated everyone better in using digital tools, ones they may not have used before in their day-to-day jobs.

He adds: “And for someone like me, it has been very refreshing learning all these new techniques and how we can use them to bring as near an ‘experience’ as having a face to face meeting. We are learning so much under the current pandemic situation, using alternative options to do our work, meetings, etc. Guess what, post-pandemic, we are now armed with more options in managing our professional lives!”

Ultimately, Dr Loo Leap Han, Head of Group HR, KMU Eiscon Holding, aptly sums it up: “How you see a situation as glass half full or glass half empty or glass full determines the way we look at life and work. Perception is a choice. It attracts happiness, positivity, opportunities or negativity all around you. Think good thoughts, say good words and take good actions to all your anticipated challenges. See the opportunity in every negativity. Hold your glass high and say cheers!”

I couldn’t agree more with what all three leaders have said.

Life is short, life is precious. At the end of the day, no matter how bad things might seem, you’ll always find a way out. And one day, you’ll look back and realise how much you’ve grown from it, and hopefully even have a good chuckle over it.


This column first appeared as part of a feature in the May-June 2020 e-mag edition of Human Resources, Singapore. Read the column in the e-mag here.

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