“It will never work… I’ll give it three months… What’s the point? I don’t want to moan, but…”
We all come across people that make these statements. In the book Polar Bear Pirates, Adrian Webster describes negative people as ‘Neg Ferrets.’ People that always seem to find a problem or a reason why an idea won’t work. And if they can’t find it, they will keep moaning until all your energy is drained.
In life we often meet people like this; it can be in our families or amongst friends. But of course we also come across these Neg Ferrets in our workplace and teams. Negativity amongst employees in the workplace can spread and often leads to a demotivated team.
Dealing with these negative characters is not always straightforward, because although firing an employee could be a possibility, there are ways to engage and inspire Neg Ferrets too. Let’s look at the three stages to managing workplace negativity:
Stage 1: Identify
First of all you need to identify them, which is the easy bit. Neg Ferrets will always make sure they are being heard. They like to sow the seeds of doom and gloom in as many ears as possible, so they make it their art to do so. It could happen around the coffee machine, during meetings, wherever they see an opportunity to share their negativity.
Stage 2: Ring-fence
After identifying them, you need to ring-fence them. Remove the stage they use to speak from. Avoid their speeches about problems, but if you hear them, ask them questions and challenge their ‘theory.’
The moaners and complainers only have a limited vocabulary and they don’t like to be challenged. They certainly don’t like to give a reason or explanation for their behaviour.
Stage 3: Blast them with positivity
Another very good cure against these people is positivity. Being happy about what is happening, positive about change, looking forward to developments is something they hate with a passion. They will therefore avoid speaking up when you are around. Your positive outlook will blind their dark sarcasm.
It is important to see how the group is divided. Some people will wait in the middle to see how an argument or conversation develops. They do not choose sides until it is clear who is winning. Making the negative people feel uncomfortable will help the undecided choose the proactive and positive group. This strategy reduces the group of moaners and can potentially close them down.
If you want to put a positive spin on the complainers, then listen to what they have to say. Determine if they have a valid point, which you need to address. It could be that this critical observation is useful.