Every Friday I post a short video on project communication. This past week I talked about paying attention to the grumpiest person in the room. But there is more than I can cover in a 2 minute video. So here’s “the rest of the story”.
Essentially, in every project I’ve worked on there’s that one person who says “this isn’t going to work”, “it will take too much time”, or “we can’t do that”.
As soon as you get the team moving in the right direction, finally making progress, they just stick a big old pin in everyone’s balloon. Very frustrating!
But I’ve found that this grumpster usually has a valid point. They may simply not be able to articulate it. Perhaps they have enough experience to understand it will take weeks to complete a certain task, but they can’t tell you exactly how long, and have a tough time breaking down the steps to explain why.
My advice is to listen to these folks. Be proactive. Work with them to understand the reason behind their negative talk. Doing so can uncover risks to your project you hadn’t considered…in time for you to mitigate them!
Someone watching my video made a comment about some people being simply negative. He said “Some of the grumpy people I know are grumpy 24/7/365 and their constant grumpiness just becomes white noise as they are ALWAYS the stick in the mud. “
This can happen as well, of course. Some people are just…negative.
This is where it gets nuanced. As a leader, the key is to listen to any changes in the person’s demeanor. Has their tone shifted – the intensity increased – the detail – the frequency? These are all indications there is more to the story than personality.
And it may be trickier to get to the actual concern.
But here’s the good news: one of these “stick in the mud” team members has the potential to be your biggest advocate.
My dad told me this story years ago and it made a big impression on me:
When he started a new management position, one of the people in his office was well known for her always negative, “can’t do” attitude. And she wasn’t quiet about it. He took extra time to listen to her and to ask her opinion in her area of expertise. After a short time, her griping ended, she was more enthusiastic at work, had great ideas and input, and became one of his biggest supporters.
It truly is amazing what can happen when you pay attention and value your team.