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Dealing with a Debbie Downer
You know the type.
“That will never work.” or “We probably shouldn’t even bother.” or “This is another waste of time.”
They suck the energy and motivation from the people around them. So, as leaders, we need to address the situation.
Privately discuss the issue with the negative person. Mention that they seem “really down” and want to know if there is something you can do to help.
If there is a personal situation (e.g., family health issue, divorce, etc.), then there isn’t much you can do about it directly. However, you can express that you are sorry that they are going through that and suggest they take some of their personal days, if they need them.
If they seem to be having a mental health issue (e.g., depression, insomnia, etc.), please tread carefully, as there are legal protections to consider. Ask them to talk to HR to see if there are recommended ways to use their benefits to get help.
If they are demotivated or experiencing burn-out, start by getting them to “recharge their batteries.” Have them “close the laptop and shut off the phone” to get some down-time to sleep, or exercise, or spend time with their spouse or their dog, or read a good book while lying in a hammock. Then, when they come back, re-motivate them for their work.
For re-motivation, give the person a “quick win,” something they can do within a few hours and then be able to check it off their to-do list. Assign them something that uses their strengths, and then give them positive feedback for their achievements and good efforts. Repeat as needed.
Help them with their time-management to re-balance or re-prioritize their workload. If they are overloaded, re-distribute their tasks, or at least more the deadlines on the less-time-critical tasks. Put in milestones or break a big job into chunks, so that the person can feel they are making progress on a long-term project.
If they are having issues with team-members, consider switching up the teams.
If that doesn’t do it, briefly discuss how their negativity is impacting the group, and ask them to reign it in, or to focus on looking for ways to fix problems, rather than just complaining about them. Notice this is the last option—it’s better to first try to identify and fix the root issue, rather than just treating the symptom.