Seven ways to dispense with Debbie Downers

Any small business professional will run into negative people. You know the type: The glass is half empty, constant doom and gloom, stories of how everyone has wronged them and nothing is fair. Having pessimism present within a small business is similar to a locomotive: The more it gets going and the faster it moves, the more it will run over everything in its path.

I recently found myself at a business networking event and very much in the thick of several business owners. I watched as nearly everyone in the circle ultimately got completely consumed by the pessimist and her viewpoint. It was difficult to witness this person’s negative energy both captivate and repel everyone around her. But as a social society, we often see people join in on the fast train of negativity. In these situations, it is easy to find others to join our pity party, supporting our story of how we were “wronged.”

Although there are times when a little venting is necessary to get a complaint off our chest, it is possible for too much pessimism to damage ourselves, our employees and our business. Rather than continuing to accommodate this negative energy, it becomes necessary to shift attention in a more positive direction.

This is a proactive and very conscious effort. There are lots of pitfalls in most anyone’s workday that can, if allowed, swallow optimistic energy and leave you and your business environment in a funk. But it need not be that way.

Here are suggestions I’ve used — they work! — for managing the pessimism that enters your life and your work environment.

• Establish some healthy boundaries. Be aware of your engagement when you notice a conversation is heading down a negative path.

• Try to stay neutral on controversial subjects.

• If needed, be prepared to politely excuse yourself.

• Limit your contact (if appropriate to do so). If this is an employee or employer this will need to be addressed differently.

• Use the art of persuasion and shift the focus to a more positive light.

• Ignore the negative comments and respond with a more general response.

• Avoid gossip (gossip can quickly lead to problems). Encourage those participating in gossip to focus more on their own situations and less on pointing a finger at someone else.

There’s never a guarantee that the dark days of business ownership will forever be eliminated with sunny skies and perpetual rainbows. But it is possible, when negativity comes creeping into the work environment, to not just mitigate it, but to completely and swiftly nip it in the bud.

Following the outlined steps above will not only encourage a more positive thought flow for yourself and your employees, but will ultimately bring greater benefits (read: profits) to your business.

Categories: Company Perspectives, Management & Leadership