You started your day thinking life is pretty good. Then you ran into Toxic Tommy you suddenly find yourself in a dark funk and the negative fungus spreads. Soon everyone around you is bemoaning how horrible things are and how it is only getting worse. You have been struck by an Energy Vampire.
The good news is you don’t have to allow Cynical Sally to trash your morale and drain you of your positive outlook. Let’s look at what you can and can't control and where you can make changes to inoculate yourself against the spores of pessimism.
Identify the source – It sounds like this should be simple. However, it is important to know if the person you are dealing with is really generating negativity or if they particularly bad about spreading gloom and doom they pick up elsewhere. Are they talking about how everyone is out to get them, the whole world a horrible place or one specific person?
Listen to what they are really saying - This is counterintuitive. Usually try to ignore people who bring us down. Rather than just listening to how bad they think everything is and agreeing with them, listen to specifically what they are complaining about. Is there anything that could be a legitimate issue that needs to be resolved? If your team has a nagging problem, you are going to hear about it from the "town crier" first and often. Ignore the emotion for a moment, listen to the content and make them feel heard. Is there something that really needs to be fixed? Great! That is something you can work with.
Ask for solutions - If you really have a Negative Nancy or a Miserable Mike on your hands you are going to get more of the "woe is me, there is nothing to be done" attitude when you start asking about ideas for solutions. If you have a team player who has not been feeling heard (and therefore keeps repeating the same negative stuff and bemoaning the lack of a solution) they will jump at the chance to develop a plan to make things better. Heaven knows they have thought about it enough to make suggestions.
Take the person aside and talk - Sometimes negative people don't realize how other people feel about their complaining. Pointing it out and asking them to stop can be very effective. If they are really unaware of their detrimental attitude, agree upon a nonintrusive way to point it out. I worked with a team who had this issue they agreed on the word "stress". When a member of the team started on a downward spiral someone on the team would say "You seem really stressed about that". This was their signal to the person that they were headed into toxicity.
Throw in the towel - If you have tried all of the options and see no improvement, it might be time to accept that you really do have a toxic person on your hands and they don't want to change. I worked with a consultant once who said people like that needed to be sold happiness somewhere else. "Things are so bad here. No doubt they are better somewhere else. Please go seek them." If you are lucky your toxic person will move on to 'greener' pastures.
Inoculation - If Pessimistic Peter/Disparaging Donna doesn't change, won't leave and until you can move him/her on, it is important to keep the negativity from effecting you and your team as much as possible. To do that, realize what is happening and deliberately decide not to let him/her bring you down. Talk about it with your team. Work toward change on things you can control, work around things you can't and do your best to ignore people who wallow in doing the opposite.
Do you have experience with an energy vampire? What kinds of symptoms are you and your team experiencing and what did you do about it?
As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!
Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence in all aspects of life through active leadership, powerful teamwork, effective communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com or call 302-307-3091.