You know them – always the glass half empty outlook…complaining about the brightness when the sun breaks through the dismal gray February days.
They derail conversations and meetings. When making a contribution, it comes with negative overtones and is diluted by the complaint of the day. They are disruptive to creative sessions and are toxic to an organization over time.
I met a person in transition recently, who said they resigned to take advantage a sweet deal in bonuses and pension supplements. The conversation went on about how unfair it was to be cut loose after 18 years, into a horrible economy, at this time of year, without some rehab training, and with experience that is stale and limited. Next was a question if I could recommend some employment prospects (couldn’t think of any).
Make no mistake, these folks are not seeking help to resolve a problem – they revel in their gloom. It is a mistake to take time to try to understand their issue and problem-solve for solutions or alternatives. Waste of time. Waste of effort. Not appreciated or heeded.
When speaking with a whine connoisseur, it is useful to be like a 4-year old child and continue to ask ‘Why?’ repeatedly – the individual will drift off to rain on another parade fairly soon.
As a leader, you will have these folks in your organization – make use of their skills and contributions, while mitigating their negative impact. Avoid putting them in key results process roles; on project teams or committees, balance them with strong can-do positive personality.
Our staff and managers are a diverse collect of talent and personality – sometimes it take some creativity to make the best use of them. It is worth the effort.
Do you have suggestions for mining the positives from the whine connoisseurs?
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I actually think it’s valuable to have the whine connoisseurs in strategic planning sessions – especially when trying to identify the threats and challenges to an organization. These are the folks who reveal your blind spots. However annoying they may be, sometimes you need a naysayer to give you an early indicator that you’re moving headlong toward a cliff – and this is true of both organizations and individuals who receive feedback from that person. That being said, it’s also crucial to mitigate against complaining from becoming a pervasive part of your culture.
Great points – I always encourage staff to come to me with not only problems, but possible solutions. That said, folks with a persistently negative outlook seem to have the finding problems part down pat, but need help with the solution finding! Pairing them up with a problem solver could create a powerful, albeit odd, duo that would ultimately contribute to a well functioning workplace.
Much to Andy’s point, I find it beneficial as well to have someone there that can help identify the gray when lots of light is about. It’s that fine line between a person who is capable and willing to play the “devil’s advocate” during a session and one who’s sole mission is to derail every idea. There is a difference. Many times I find the “negative” person in a group may be negative because their point of view is constantly ignored, even when correct. Striking the balance and letting that person be part of planning towards success is the key to over oming a constant negative feeling.