4 Ways to Win Over Negative Team Members
#1. Don’t minimize the concerns of negative people. When you say, “It’s not that bad,” to someone who thinks it’s bad, they think that you don’t get it. You’re out of touch. They’ll spend their energy trying to ‘help’ you understand how bad things really are.
When you try to encourage people by explaining that things aren’t that bad, you invite them to explain how bad things really are.
You encourage negativity when you minimize the problems negative people see.
#2. Connect with negative people by agreeing with them at least a little.
- “Wow! That sounds terrible.” It may not be terrible to you, but it’s terrible to them. Think of a child with a little boo boo. What do you do?
- “You know you’re right. This is a tough situation.”
- “I can see how frustrating this must be.”
You connect with people when you go with them, not when you push against them.
Don’t agree that problems are insurmountable. Just agree that it’s bad. Perhaps they complain that they’re under time pressure. Say, “Wow. You really seem busy.”
#3. Don’t try to fix a negative person’s problem for them, if it’s their job to fix it. When you try to fix something for a negative person, they explain why your solution won’t work. Now you’re in an adversarial conversation that has a winner and a loser.
#4. Find a small yes. The possibility of progress provides positive energy. You might say, “I don’t think we can find a perfect solution to this problem. Is there some small aspect of this situation we can make better?”
Wait for the, “Yes.”
When people acknowledge to themselves that forward movement is possible, their minds shifts. They move from explaining what can’t be done to what could be done.
How might leaders move negative people toward a more positive approach?
As you mention find the common ground and build on into a positive solution.
Some people just whine, so give them a little cheese…
Thanks Tim. I think trajectory is the key. How can you move toward positive?
I tell myself everyday be positive, smile, give positive scenarios when asked to contribute.
With customers letting them know we have a solution, I will then show up a search out a plan when requested.
Great Post Dan! I’ve often found it useful to keep in mind to only offer advice to a negative person when asked. Doing so beforehand can backfire. Mainly listening has been a more effective tool. #NewBloggerHere
I had a “person” who refused to drafting as he felt engineers don’t do that. That negativity could have upset the team. For this person, I encouraged him to do what he likes with the caveat that he has to tell the team what he found *new* and *interesting* and that he should not disturb the others while they are working.
The team learnt new skills and we were able to do much better engineering animations. My suggestion to the “person” was to make “design portfolios” to convince us of his hard work. 4years later, he went to a reputed Design Institute in India and needless to say, earns 10X more than any of us.
all for creating a positive from a negative! If a person has a problem, why should they be classed as a negative person? Surely by mentioning they see a problem, they are being positive. Only connect with people if you really mean it, not for the sake of connecting.
As a new “leader”, I have a very hard time being that sunshiny person all the time when I was just in everyone’s shoes not 1 year ago. When I was a staff nurse in the ER the WORST thing a “leader” could say was “oh it’s not that bad….you just have to stay positive”. Sometimes it really is that bad, but I don’t think most of us want to relive or stay in the “bad”. This article makes me feel very empowered to be able to empathize with my “negative people”. I’ve always been told that you combat negative with positive….but it never felt right. As a person who tends to see the negative myself, I agree….most of the time validation, empathy, and support in turning around the train is exactly what is most needed!
I don’t think anyone and I mean ANYONE can be a ‘sunshiny’ person all the time, it is only human not to be. Empathy is a good, more likely a great skill to have and develop, one I am sure would have been put to great use during your time in an ER department, one human dealing with another human. From experiencing the other side of an ER department, A & E in my home country, the staff aiding the person, prepared us for the worst, yet again we still looked for the positive. The unexpected positive was, the person we were in A & E with, had an additional year of life.
I find the constant drive for positivity at all times disturbing. “There are no problems, only opportunities” / “there is no failure, only feedback” lose their jolly ring when you’re delivering accident reports, dealing with environmental damage or working in an operating theatre. It’s the emperor’s new clothes written into management gabble.
Good post. Another tool is inviting the negative person: “How would you describe the issue?” Followed by “how do you think (someone of the opposite opinion) sees it.?” The latter forces them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and hence see a different point of view.
Hi Dan! This post reminds me of the work by researcher Vanessa Druskat at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Druskat makes the point that a little known fact that the greatest trigger of emotions today is our social needs in a social situation like a team meeting or a workplace. We can be proactive to address these needs by establishing the right kinds of team norms or we can troubleshoot to find out which of the social needs is not being addressed by the negative person. You can learn more at Episode 24 of my podcast here if you’re interested: http://scienceofsuccess.libsyn.com/podcast