During a recent episode of the VistageCast Series, Vistage speaker Steven Snyder recommended a highly unique approach to the eradication of workplace pessimists. Hint? Ignoring their complaints is not the answer.
We all know who the so-called “difficult people” are on our teams. But Snyder, a pioneer in the human potential movement, has identified three different subtypes of difficult people—and proven ways to deal with each one.
1. Angry people are hostile, difficult to work with, and engage others with fear. If you don’t react, the situation is defused; Snyder suggests “standing your ground without fear.”
2. Sad, lonely and depressed people are the most challenging category of people to work with, but Snyder believes we can make a difference by getting them involved in helping others—to, in effect, “get them out of their own head” and onto a more positive track.
3. Finally, pessimistic people are argumentative; these are the people saying, “I told you so.” Snyder says, “What you need to do to take a pessimist off their stride is to agree with them.”
Unfortunately, thanks to persistent economic unrest, the ranks of the pessimists keep swelling. Financial fears left many of our colleagues and employees unwilling to dream or set big goals. To make it worse, vocal pessimists have a habit of stymieing CEOs and leaders, who work very hard to motivate people and inspire strong action. Is it possible to get terminal pessimists back on board with the company’s strategic vision?
And more importantly, do we really have to agree with them to succeed?
“You can’t say, ‘You can’t do that anymore,’ but what you must do is find a way to make that pessimism appropriate,” explained Snyder. “If you don’t give them room to share the pessimism, then they have no ability to shift into conscious optimism. But that’s the key.”
Snyder’s solution? Having executive teams implement Pessimistic Monday Mornings once a week, every week. When pessimism has an appropriate place and time on the calendar, your pessimists get to air their grievances, and then focus on solutions for the rest of the week. No more complaints or bottleneck midweek or during a deadline. And no more surprises for you.
“You have an hour or two Monday morning where everybody gets to talk about the things they’re worried about. And what bad things could happen this week, and all that kind of stuff. And all the complaints and all the moaning and everything. And then it ends. From now on, any time you deal with that issue for the rest of this week, we talk about solutions. We already stated the problem… The pessimism is left for next Monday.”
Cautious optimists are pessimists with a balanced view—they spend equal time on the problems as they do on possible solutions. In other words, they’re valuable team members. Plus, on the personal side, you’re freeing these “difficult people” from being tethered to their fears and concerns.
“There’s a place for their pessimism. They don’t have to abandon it. But they also don’t have to carry it with them 24/7,” says Snyder.
If you’re facing a bout of pessimism in your organization, it’s time to rethink your approach. Are you ready for a real challenge? Set aside one to two hours this Monday for your own Pessimistic Monday Morning and chart your organization’s deepest concerns—and then come together, as a team, to create solutions.
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