Fred and Martha were driving home after a church service. “Fred,” Martha asked, “did you notice that the pastor’s sermon was kind of weak today?”
“No, not really,” answered Fred.
“Well, did you hear the choir was flat?”
“No, I didn’t,” he responded.
“Well, you certainly must have noticed that young couple and their children right in front of us, with all the noise and commotion they made the whole service!”
“I’m sorry, dear, but no, I didn’t.”
Finally in disgust Martha said, “Honestly, Fred, I don’t know why you even bother to go to church.”
While the story above is funny, on teams a person who always looks at everything as negative can be dangerous. They can become a poison provider who quietly, freely and gladly gives cups and sometimes buckets of poison to the rest of the team. Having a team with less negative and more positive is important to teamwork and energy.
There are three things you can do about it as a leader if a member of your team is highly negative.
1. Understand It. Before the negativity can be addressed, it needs to be understood. Be careful of being negative about the negative person. Seek to understand before being understood.
It could be they feel undervalued, not appreciated, supported or a whole host of other things that you need to hear.
2. Address It. Sometimes negative team members don’t realize how negative they really are. Pull that person aside and have a very frank and direct conversation with him or her.
Focus on what the negativity sounds like, how it is received and how it affects the team. Use specific examples of what the critical team member says.
3. Add It. Every team should have a list of “Rules of Engagement,” which define how the team interacts and gives permission to team members to call each other out on violations of these rules.
One of those items that should be added to every Rules of Engagement list is to avoid negativity on the team. There is power in having the rest of the team call the negative teammate out. Providing permission to do that in meetings and any other setting is powerful.
Peer pressure can dramatically lessen the negativity.
Through it all, leaders must remain positive and set a good example while calmly dealing with negativism. Using the three tips above can help turn a potential poisonous situation on your team into one that benefits all and sets an important tone for moving forward.
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