Good Leadership Change Whiners and Pessimists into Top Performers

Michelle Riklan  |  November 20, 2015

Motivated-People-Perform A pessimist can bring down a whole team without trying. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the pessimists in your team completely. In some cases, these people can add a touch of realism into an overly optimistic team. As a leader, you have two options here: Good leadership can change whiners and pessimists into top performers, or a good leader can also use the negativity of these team members as a way to map out possible points of failure. Either way, you’re turning them into top performers who can contribute to your team instead of just complaining. But which route should you take? When is it safe to say you’ve tried your best and the only option is to let go? Below are a few tips that any leader can use to help improve morale in your team — especially if you happen to have a few team members who like to focus on the negative versus the positive.

Identify the Core of the Problem

For starters, you should determine the root cause of their negativity before attempting to advice or change employees like them in any way.

Asking questions will help you identify the likely starting point of their pessimistic and whiny attitude. It’s not likely they’re just born that way, right?

“What’s the first thing that comes to your mind before you complain about (insert the last subject of their complaint here)?”

Asking about what they thought before verbalizing the complaint will reveal clues about where they’re coming from. Is the employee pessimistic because of past failures, the project’s difficulty or potential problems they see that you don’t?

By asking that question every time they complain, you’ll soon see a pattern to their behavior. Is the negative attitude triggered by a specific event, a particular employee or a time? Could it have been caused by too much pressure or over time?

Once you answer these questions, then you can proceed to developing a solution to their behavior.

Turning Pessimists into Better Contributing Employees

After finding the root cause of the employee’s negativity, the next step is to help them channel their pessimism into something useful. This has to be done in a constructive manner; your aim is to help employees see things in a different light and use their negative view of things constructively. The goal isn’t to make them see how whiny and annoying they are.

The goal is not to change your team member’s values and beliefs.