Huddled in a cube, lurking around a corner or seated next to you in a meeting is quite possibly a cynic or a sourpuss. You know who they are. There are present in every organization. The cynic is only interested in their agenda and will discount any idea that isn’t their own. The sourpuss is perpetually grumpy and will find fault just to be difficult and make others miserable. Both have infinite capacity to suck the life out of a team, project or meeting. They will create drama and obstacles in order to keep a project from moving forward. They will cast doubt on the people trying to initiate change (typically this is done behind their back). They are the naysayers.
How can you focus on moving projects forward and stay positive when others are chirping in your ear with their negativity? Here are a few tips to quell the cynic and the sourpuss.
- Practice candor. If someone is harshly criticizing the project or other team members reach out to them directly to understand their “real” issues and concerns in a private setting. As part of that conversation, share with them how their actions are affecting progress of the project. While it’s always challenging to face a naysayer directly it will have the best outcome when delivered in a genuine, thoughtful and objective manner.
- Make a pledge to practice abstinence. This starts by not engaging in antagonistic conversations about other people. When the naysayers are spewing negativity, disengage from the conversation. If you cease to fuel the gossip fire, you will find the conversations will begin to wind down quicker or not ignite in the first place. It will be understood, that you have no interest in these unproductive chitchats.
- Create a drama free zone. I coach teams that have made a pledge to no drama and make it part of their team charter. This in turn ensures each team member is focused on building up the team versus tearing each other down.
How do you respond to the naysayers?