Yay, it’s Q&A Monday again and today’s question is about how you can deal with pessimists on your team.
First things first: Moods and emotions are contagious. You probably heard the term “infectious laughter”, so that’s a good thing. Except you are in a very serious meeting with very serious people, then an outburst might be “frowned upon”. But just as good emotions spread, so do the negative and uncomfortable ones. That’s why:
Pessimistic team members, especially when their manners turn cynical and sarcastic, need to be confronted about what they’re doing and how it is affecting the team.

The Pessimist Bonus

But first pause for a moment. There can be an upside to someone pessimistic on the team:
They can help with caution and realistic assessments of situations. If you include them well in the team dynamics, it enriches your team and they contribute in this important role. Otherwise your team may overlook things.
If someone paints the future black all of the time though – and remains pessimistic even though your team did a proper analysis of the goal and committed to it – you need to have a word with them.

Dealing with Pessimists

You can try the following:
Have an honest but kind conversation, let them know the impact of their behaviour and stay curious as to why they see it this way. Remember, behind every cynic is unexpressed hope. So there may have been many instances in the past that didn’t turn out so well for them and now they try to protect themselves.
Challenge your employee to not take past experiences and project those into the future. Explore when their pessimism is helpful and where it is hindering progress. Ask them to find new ways of expressing their concerns or even parking those concerns if they feel tempted to offer a pessimistic opinion just out of habit.
And lastly, establish a new rule: They’re allowed to provide their pessimistic perspective, but only if at the same time they’re offering an idea on how mitigate the risks they foresee.
Have a great week!
PS: Got a question you’d like me to answer? Email me!
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