How to Turn Negative Nancy into Positive Pam
How do you distinguish between a true Negative Nancy and one who just has an eye for identifying areas that need improvement?
There are folks who have the ability to immediately spot improvements not as a way to be negative but as an opportunity for improvement. Yet coworkers seem to view these folks as negative because it seems that things are never good enough.
Great question and observation about Negative Nancy.
Negative Nancy isn’t trying to cause harm. She’s trying to help.
Trying to harm co-workers isn’t negativity. It’s evil.
It’s normal to see what’s wrong before you see what’s right.
Imagine little Mary showing her mom a picture she just colored. Imagine Mom’s first words are, “You went outside the lines three times.”
Negative Nancy seems negative because she’s thrilled with her own ideas and disrespectful of other people’s work.
Negative impact is the triumph of good intentions over people skills.
How to Turn Negative Nancy into Positive Pam:
#1. Admiration precedes improvement.
If someone’s work is so bad that there’s nothing to admire, that person has the wrong job.
#2. Small improvements of other people’s work cause loss of enthusiasm.
Ask yourself if your tweak is worth low vitality.
Enthusiasm goes further than discouragement.
#3. Develop a reputation for affirmation and admiration.
It’s easy for Negative Nancy to become Positive Pam. She can choose to affirm and admire every time she feels the urge to tweak.
#4. Negative Nancy will do better if she takes the assessment and does the exercises in, “Emotional Intelligence 2.0.”
#5. Encourage people to improve their own work. (Keep your tweaks to yourself.)
- What will you do differently next time?
- What suggestions might you have for me if I did this project?
- What does taking this project to the next level look like?
What suggestions do you have for Negative Nancy?
How do you distinguish between someone who is truly negative and someone who is trying to make things better?
There are 10 articles on How to Ignite Positive Energy in the Complete Works of February 2020.
Nitpickers Usually Cause More Harm than Good (Bud to Boss)
How to Deal with a Co-Worker who Points Out All Your Wrongs (Chron)
5 Tips for Handling Negative People in the Workplace (Inc)
Why are only female protrayals used? Negative Nancy, Positive Pam, little Mary and her mother? I am sure it is unintentional but the need to turn Negative Nancy into Positive Pam, versus Negative Nate into Positive Paul, perpetuates stereotypes for women in the workplace. I have enjoyed your blog for years but honestly expect more in the words and examples chosen.
Thanks Jennifer. I decided to answer the question as it was stated. You might feel better if you read the post where this came from: https://leadershipfreak.blog/2020/02/28/3-hard-and-fast-rules-for-dealing-with-negative-people/
I dont comment on Dan’s readers, but need to “share”.
I have worked fo decades and never came up against a ‘Negative Nate’. It was always women (self included); i think Men are wired differently then women and that is o.k. I like coaching opportunities (giveen and taken).
This post has given me a different perspective.
Thank you Dan, and Jennifer.
As a proofreader at my company, I am valued for finding mistakes. But sometimes it’s difficult to leave Proofing Patty at the office. Your advice is helpful for my “home team.” I’ve found Negative Nancy is really Critical Kris, adding stress to my personal relationships. I don’t need to improve my husband’s dish washing skills. Thanks for the tips!
Thanks Kris. It’s fun that you took these ideas home. Frankly, being negative at home seems pretty easy. I show up as Dark Dan on a regular occurrence.
When I listen to my language, I find it often comes from a dark place, even though I’m trying to move the agenda forward. It’s easy to sound negative when I’m trying to help.
We make a joke of being picky in our house. I think the plates should go in the dishwasher in a specific way. If my wife does it wrong I say, “It’s hard to find good help.” We laugh.
Come to think of it. We use the “hard to find good help” sentence semi-regularly. It seems to add playfulness to a conversation because we are already committed to each other.
I have often found that what I hit up against isn’t Negative Nancy-types, but people for who are flat-out fixated on perfection at any cost, the embodiment of the “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it” approach
Thanks Mitch. Perhaps it’s useful to distinguish between perfectionism and reaching high?
I’m not sure where the committed perfectionist really fits on a team?
I agree with Mitch.
Negative Nancy appears to be a “perfectionist.”
She needs to be coached on the fact that not everything need to be perfect.
Remember the 20/80 rule. Only 20% of the work needs to be perfect or continuously improved. 80% of the work –you just need to get it done.
Thanks Paul. The Pareto Principle 80/20 seems to pop up all over the place.
I’m with you, the idea of constant improvement doesn’t apply to everything.
Negative “Nancies” are such because they have yet (due to a lack of experience or personality) found a way to present their ideas, thoughts or concerns in a Positive (+) way. I’ve found through my own trial and error and seeing others that it is all about presentation, how you present it, in what format and in what way. Too often negative “Nancies” are just plain impatient to go through the steps of putting their “concerns” in a positive way. Some call that being lazy and it is.
Thanks Roger. It’s funny you say that. I wrote a post for tomorrow that includes the idea that there good reasons to be negative. Sometimes the problem is we don’t know how to communicate effectively with others.
Think about it this way Dan, who ever teaches us about how to communicate our concerns whether they are negative or positive. Yes you see communications classes and seminars but do you really ever see any that deal with how one presents one’s concerns to get buy in or even a listen. I believe it’s just something you gather over many years of trial and error and observation along life’s pathway. Or it just seems like that is what I’ve seen.
Great post! I love your insight that “Negative impact is the triumph of good intentions over people skills.”
This is an interesting post as I don’t see constructive criticism as negative but a contribution to personal or professional growth. Albeit hard, it may be more of a communication or presentation issue. One should always be rewarded for what they do right first with a follow on of where someone can improve versus being wrong.
Negative Nancy may have had too many “what she did wrong” before what she did right. People tend to mentally depart the conversation with this type of approach which closes the bridge of conversation.
Conflict negotiation is all about keeping the lines of communication open, choosing words carefully, and remaining focused on the goal in an agile manner.
We all have good and bad days – keeping our eye on Nancy more often may prevent Nancy from falling into the negative cycle.
Thanks Kishla. Wonderful insight for me in your comment.
Re: the value of constructive criticism. If I’m working to improve my tennis game, anyone who points out a better way to play or a mistake I am making is a hero. The key to the situation is personal aspiration. Those who don’t aspire to improve resent feedback.
Having said that, when someone is always critical it becomes frustrating even for those with aspiration. How about a good word once in a while?
A good distinction between Negative Nancy and Positive Pam may well be how the message is delivered. Is the criticism constructive or belittling? The words we use make all the difference. Great post as always Dan!
Thanks Rise. The way we say what we say is more powerful than what we say. A critical tone makes criticism harder to receive. A superior tone invites resistance.
Agreed Dan. You can call me Shelley.
Dan, this seems to be directed to a Negative Nancy about how to change. What is my response when my team is being beaten up by a Negative Nancy [who may or may not be open to changing approaches]? How can I help Critical Chris be a little more kind in communicating about desired improvements?
Hey Pete; How about you sit down with Critical Chris and help school him on how he might message his concerns in a more compassionate and accepting way. If one does not help those who may not know or care to know how to communicate better and in a more effective way how would one expect that person to change? As I noted in my comment to Dan earlier who teaches us to be a better communicator of our needs or concerns whether they are positive or negative. I improved my messaging over the years due to trial and error and watching others, it would have been nice to have someone (more grizzled and schooled) to sit down with me and help me on a better communication pathway.
It was refreshing to read about how you deal with negative people in the world. Though it is impossible to have everyone be positive, there is a difference between bring truly negative verses someone who is trying to make things better. For one, those that are truly negative are the ones that are always pessimistic and they do not care to try to make a difference or take feedback from others. It is impossible to change their outlook since they are so deep into the mindset of being negative, rather than finding preventive solutions to make outcomes have better results. Those who intend to make things better have a different outlook on situations and life. You can see a clear admiration to change and be better, although it may be frustrating and sometimes it may seem like they are giving up. However, it’s just the heat of the moment and their emotions getting the best of them, in which the individual may need time to cool off and come back to the problem. I found it beneficial to come back to a problem with a clear head and positive mindset, therefore you can be more efficient in decision-making. It’s okay to make mistakes and errors because these factors are what helps becoming a good and productive leader. It’s always feasible to take criticism in a positive way to become stronger and fixing the situation, especially in a workplace. For example, in public health or any healthcare career, it’s not always going to be easy, therefore, causing stress and sometimes irritation. That doesn’t mean that you give up, but to seek help from colleagues and mentors because you don’t want that pessimistic energy and people in the workplace. To deal with negative people in a workplace, it may be beneficial to try to get to the root cause of why that individual is feeling that way and coming up with a solution that can help ease the problem. Communication is always key, however there are boundaries in which it is okay to walk away if the individual is unwilling to cooperate.
I really identify with the type of worker described in the beginning of this blog, but I would not call myself a negative Nancy at all. I am actually a very positive person in general, but in the workplace, I believe that everyone should be held to a certain standard and job performance. I am very observant, which means I easily spot mistakes, corrections that need to be made, and possible improvements. I have been hesitant on several different occasions to bring mistakes I observe to light to my supervisor or co-workers. In addition to being hesitant of saying anything, there have been a couple of times where I did not say anything at all because I did not want to seem like I was constantly “complaining” to my supervisor. I think positive criticism is a good thing in any situation, especially in a work setting, and can help a person grow and be a better worker and teammate. Personally, I welcome positive criticism and for someone to correct me when I am wrong or make a mistake. This is the only way that people can grow and learn from their mistakes. Obviously, correcting someone’s work or making him or her aware of a mistake should be approached in a delicate, sensitive way. Because of this, I agree that it is better to show and give enthusiasm instead of discouragement all the time and this can be done through encouragement.
Thanks for the post Dan! I have plenty of experience working with a negative Nate/Nancy whatever anyone wishes to call it. A little background, I supervise five workers in a warehouse/office operation that takes teamwork from all staff to make the program successful. One person can disrupt the whole operation and something as little as someone’s attitude can be the difference in a productive day or a total wash. It took me a little bit of time but I was able to gauge one individual that was not very receptive to my management obligations and see the best way to communicate. I discovered that this individual was Native American and in his culture, the elders are the authoritative figures. So taking instructions from someone younger was causing problems. I adjusted my approach on how I talked with him and ended up solving many of our communication issues without having to take it to the next level. This not only strengthened my working relationship with a coworker but it also increased productivity within the program. Asking for feedback and involving this employee in more of the decision-making processes gave this employee a sense of self-satisfaction in return eliminating a lot of the work drama.