Coping with the nay-sayer

A negative attitude can defeat achievement and progress. A.P. Gouthey wrote: "You can't have darkness and light in the same place at the same time. The cure for a gloomy outlook is a lighted mind.

08/01/1998


A negative attitude can defeat achievement and progress.

A.P. Gouthey wrote: "You can't have darkness and light in the same place at the same time. The cure for a gloomy outlook is a lighted mind."

Unlike Senior Engineer Brad Phillips, Project Supervisor Bill Weiner was an advocate of meaningful change. Thus he was bugged by Brad's habit of mindlessly denigrating almost every idea proposed at the department's weekly brainstorming sessions. His negative outlook and it-won't-work attitude rubbed off on the rest of the team, dampening spirit, undermining morale.

Weiner was impelled to do something about it. As an optimist he believed that while attitude is a predisposition to behavior, it isn't an absolute. People, even people like Brad, can be persuaded to alter both their outlook and resulting behavior. But how?

Maybe his boss would have some ideas.

Question : What strategy would you use to convert a nay-sayer to a yea-sayer?

Klein's approach: Plant Engineer Rod Klein listened thoughtfully while Weiner expressed his concern.

"You mean he knocks down every suggestion at those brainstorming sessions?"

"Almost every one -- except his own. Like his development idea for a refrigerant management plan. He's all gung-ho for that."

Weiner then cited examples of Phillips' ill considered opposition.

"Interesting," Klein said. "Send him to my office; I'll have a chat with him."

Minutes later, dour-faced Brad Phillips sat across from Klein at his desk.

"Brad, I understand you'd like to get a go-ahead on that refrigerant plan you worked up."

Phillips' face lit up. "Yeah, I think -- "

"Let me ask you this. How would you feel if the idea was killed because a colleague, without even thinking it through, sounded off against it?"

Phillips frowned. "I'm not sure I know what you mean."

"I'll spell it out."

Klein cited an example of Phillips' negativism that Weiner had related. "Tell me, Brad, how closely did you examine and evaluate Ed Horlick's control primer suggestion before declaring it wouldn't work?"

"Well..." His frown deepened. "You mean I -- ?"

Klein smiled. "I think you get the message. Give it some thought. If you want people to respond positively to your ideas, you have to give theirs a fighting chance to succeed -- unless you have a valid reason to do otherwise."





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