After several perfect spring days here where I live in Virginia, today has been nothing but dreary, chilly and rainy. The high I experienced early this week of being outdoors with my children has pretty much disappeared, and I find myself feeling grumpy, unmotivated and pessimistic.
It’s not in my nature to be any of those things, so it’s prompted me to think about life, and specifically work, and how easy it is to allow issues to kill our morale and throw us off course. I set out with some pretty hard core goals today; now, all I can think about is crawling under the covers. No doubt, rainy days are my kryptonite. They’re especially painful following a bout of sunshine.
At work, we all experience “rainy” days. Maybe a customer lashes out at us for no reason. An idea we were invested in gets shot down. An exceptional employee hands in a two-week notice. We don’t meet a target or deadline. We’re chugging along, merry as can be, basking in the sunshine of success, when out of the blue, something or someone rains all over our parade.
When that happens, it’s easy to let the negativity take hold. The goal is to not let it take hold for too long, and most of us are good at that. We put things in perspective, bounce back, and move on with life.
When people don’t snap out of it
What about those team members on your team who chronically act negative? They nitpick, shoot down ideas, complain, and rarely like an idea or plan. Chronically negative people are toxic for teams. To reiterate, we’re not talking about people having the occasional bad day. We’re talking about full-on constantly negative people. What do you do about them? Try this:
- Look for a sliver of merit in what they’re saying. SOMETHING they’re complaining about must be legitimate. Even if it is just a kernel of insight, agree with that single issue. Then try to move on to something else. Don’t let them dwell on it. If they continue, simply say “We’re moving on.” That makes them feel validated, without letting the conversation turn into a gripe session.
- Acknowledge their remarks. Don’t make light of what they’re saying, or use jokes or sarcasm to put them in their place. Come out and say firmly, but politely “I hear your concerns, I’ve considered them, and now we’re moving forward.” Don’t offer naysayers a platform to continue to beat down ideas.
- Involve the rest of the team. If a negative person is doing all the talking, ask the rest of the team if they agree. Say: “Who else shares Katie’s point of view?“ If others speak up, listen and alter your plan as needed. However, if no one else speaks up, and that is often the case, the naysayer may see how unwarranted his or her concerns are.
- Ask for solutions. Sometimes complainers are miserable and want everyone else to be too. When they continue to point out flaws, say “You’ve already offered several reasons why the plan won’t work. Now, give me two ideas for overcoming those challenges to ensure it does work.” Don’t let negative people off the hook; require them to be part of the solution.
Most important for you to think about is why chronically negative people are that way. Are they just naturally combative or pessimistic? Or is something going in your organization that’s making them so cynical? Are you the reason for their negativity? Think about the actions, policies, goals and so on that could be causing them to be so mad at the world. Then do what you can to fix it.