Reality Check! How to Handle an Overly Optimistic Co-Worker

Optimistic Coworker

In today’s extremely negative and dramatic world online and in real life, it can be beneficial to look at the bright side of situations. Focusing on the positive impact of current circumstances at work can lead to a reduction of stress and improved performance. But what happens when you have a colleague or boss who is overly optimistic? Unfortunately, losing touch with reality on the job can lead to overconfidence, a lack of planning, and failure to reach performance goals. 

In the workplace, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. There is a delicate balance between having a positive mindset and being overly optimistic. This is similar to the balance between being a realistic thinker and being overly skeptical. The most productive professionals and organizations know how to incorporate the right amount of optimism and realism. Many life science professionals come in contact with others who don’t fully grasp the responsibilities and duties required to perform a job. Here’s how to handle an overly optimistic co-worker.

Acknowledge their positive perspective

If your colleague has proposed a positive idea or solution, first thank them for their optimistic approach. Acknowledging your co-worker and their support can show them that you appreciate their help and don’t take them for granted. In the workplace, genuine appreciation and collaboration are often overlooked while management focuses on problems. Your words can cultivate a stronger relationship with your co-worker that might benefit you both in the future.    

Explain the reality of the circumstances

In the event the suggestion your optimistic colleague proposed isn’t feasible, take some time to discuss the reality of the situation. Explain the background and details necessary to come up with an effective solution. Let them know if truthfully a project would require more people, time, or resources. If your boss is overly optimistic, it’s even more important that you present the facts in a neutral way. You don’t want to appear as though you are shooting down their ideas or solutions.  Present any research you’ve done that proves your point.

Ask for their help with brainstorming

Overly optimistic professionals can often have good ideas and offer innovative ways to solve problems. Those solutions could be successful if they are backed by the appropriate systems, procedures, and people. Ask your optimistic colleague to help you during the brainstorming process. You can schedule a brainstorming session in-person or via phone to get things started. In the beginning, you can set up any parameters to the conversation such as the available resources or timeframe. From there, you both can be free to propose ideas without fear of judgment or backlash.  

Share your conclusion

After a brainstorming session with an optimistic colleague, you will probably have many options to choose from. If you think it might be helpful, you can include your co-worker in the process of narrowing down the realistic options. However, if your brainstorming session was related to your position including aspects that only you are aware of, it might be better to narrow down choices on your own. Finally, you can share your conclusion with your positive co-worker after making your decision. 

It can be annoying to work with colleagues who are overly optimistic without the necessary details or support to achieve their goals. To avoid setting yourself or them up for failure, there are a few things you can do. First, acknowledge and thank them for their positive perspective. Then, explain the reality of your current circumstances with research. Asking them for help with brainstorming can lead to exploring options you might not have considered. Once you’ve narrowed down all of the possibilities to what could be most effective, share this conclusion with your colleague. How do you plan to balance a positive mindset with being overly optimistic?     

Porschia Parker-Griffin is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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