JS Tip 105: From the Team-building Workshops: Working with Eeyore

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. 

“So it is.” 

“And freezing.” 

“Is it?” 

“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

  —The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne

What’s it like to work with Eeyore? What’s it like to work with someone with a negative attitude? It sucks the life out of you.

Try either of these approaches:

Talk to the person about his or her behavior. Open a dialogue. Explain how you feel about the negative attitude and how it affects the group.

Use three-step “I” statements:

1. “I felt . . . [frustrated]

2. “When you . . . [complained about the project]

3. “Because . . . [I felt it discourage the others].”

Compare the “I statement” with the more confrontational “You statement”: “You’re always negative! Nothing is good for you!”

Search for “I statements” on the internet for a longer discussion.

Make it a group effort. Work with your team. Plan your approach: Agree that no one will respond to Eeyore’s negative behavior; everyone will reward his positive behavior.

When he’s negative, ignore it. Make no comments. Make no faces. React as if he didn’t make the comment. Silence. Grim silence. 

When he’s positive, say, “Good job,” or “Nice comment.” Point out his positive attitude and thank him for his kindness and encouragement.

It will take some effort, but it’s worth it.  

Next week: Iterate and reiterate. Bring and take. Job aid and job aide.