Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dealing with Pessimists on your team

Dealing with a pessimist on your team can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience. Attempts to ignore or counter frequent negative comments may simply boost further negativity. This is one of the biggest challenge for a manager. This quite often kills a team's momentum and motivation. It is very disappointing when your top performers are spreading negative comments in the organization.

Here are three approaches to managing negative behavior:

1. Create awareness. This is best done by pulling the team member aside and explaining how his comments are received. Explain why the person is valued on the team and make clear the impact of his behavior. For example, you can say, "When you make negative comments, the team gets stuck and we aren't able to move forward." Once you understand the underlying reason for the pessimism, you can provide additional support or information if it's needed.

2. Reposition negative statements. Don't let negative comments linger. Ask for clarification or more information about what the speaker means. . Offer your own constructive criticism while providing an alternative solution.

3. Involve the whole team. It can be damaging to single out a team member in front of the entire team. Peer pressure is a far more effective tactic. Sometimes social sanctions work better than leader sanctions. Set team norms and ask everyone to observe them. Once you've agreed on norms, ask the team to hold each other to them.

When All Else Fails
All of the experts agree that if a team member is continually disruptive and does not respond to coaching or feedback, you may ultimately need to remove her from the team. Sometimes people are not a good fit for a team or a project and it's your job as leader to make that distinction.

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