POPin Blog

Debbie Downers in the Workplace

We all have one. That friend we like, but really don’t want to hang out with. They’re kind, loyal and realistic to a fault. But beneath that layer of ‘realism’ lurks a negative energy that crosses into downright pessimism.
“Do you really want to do that?” “That sounds complicated.” “I bet it will be crowded.” “I’m not going to ask – they’ll probably say no anyway.”
It’s exhausting just writing those words. So, yes there are plenty of people who toe the line between realism and pessimism. And maybe we can manage it in our personal relationships, but what about in the workplace? Because you know it happens every day in the world of work. That one negative person can literally suck the energy right out of a room and completely toss a grenade into a project or initiative. 
“There’s no way we can do that.” “It’s too risky.” “We’re just going to lose again, so why bother.” “Now is not a good time.”
This can be frustrating, maddening and absolutely derailing especially if you’re working towards some real corporate change.   We suppose you could try and ignore them (just like that friend), but the truth is that is doesn’t always solve the problem, especially if that pessimist happens to be a team member who plays a crucial part in making a project a huge success or a miserable failure. That’s why knowing how to handle a pessimist at the workplace is important. Because, let’s be realistic. What’s the alternative? You could marginalize them – or heck, even fire them. But we’re big believers in capturing the brain and filling the heart, so here are a few tips to change Debbie Downer’s frown upside down.
  1. Create awareness.

Does your employee know they are being negative? Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they don’t. Pull them aside and let them know how their comments impact the team.

  1. Reposition the negative comments.

Basically, turn it around and ask them to come forward with solutions or alternatives. Some execs tell us that they don’t allow a negative unless there’s a positive comment that follows. It’s about shifting the energy to “We Can Do It” thinking.

It sounds counter intuitive, but we think that as leaders, it’s up to us to engage even the naysayers on our teams. It becomes about asking for input and valuing their contribution. We’ve witnessed it time and again – that employees will surprise you with their interest to grow, learn, contribute and make inroads into reaching their full potential – if the opportunity is presented.

  1. Show Appreciation

Appreciation and recognition are powerful tools. The simple act of “thank you” or sharing positive recognition makes people feel valued and sends a clear signal that you care. But it’s not enough to think it—you must effectively communicate your appreciation and recognition. And when you do show appreciation, make it count. Be specific about what you appreciate and make it meaningful and genuine.