Dealing with Killjoys

We've all met the dour pessimist who turns up discontentedly and makes it clear from his countenance that he has better things to do and then delivers some deflationary point just as the rest are getting enthusiastic. The best solution in dealing with killjoys is to win them over. In fact, you should be worried if you run projects where too many people are in continual agreement. It could mean that only one person (not necessarily you) is doing the bulk of the work. When there isn't enough debate, the group isn't stretching itself and introducing fresh concepts, which is exactly what should be happening at this planning stage.

The best thing to do with a killjoy is not to put him down in front of the rest of the group. Far better is to get to know him and discuss the situation privately. Find out his views. Killjoys often have very valuable views but are unduly afraid that no one will take any notice of them. They utter in all embracing terms, "This project will never work!" instead of being specific and saying something along the lines of, "Please explain how this program will integrate with the accountancy system mainframe." If they're jumping to conclusions due to insufficient or incorrect information, set them straight. Then ask them what their views are now. They'll appreciate your attention and may return to the group with a more positive attitude.

Always take the following steps in dealing with someone whose attitude seems to be dragging the rest of the group down:

1. Speak to them privately.

2. Establish that they are working from a correct set of facts.

3. Find out what really concerns them. It may not be the first explanation they give.

4. Address their concerns.

5. Make them feel a wanted and valued member of the project. (It's why they were invited to be a member of the group in the first place.)

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