Pessimism is everywhere

Pessimism is everywhere. They vocalize thoughts littered with negativity and unhelpful criticism—which usually results in a stampede of positive thinkers running for the hills. But what do you do when you are in a confined area with nowhere to run? What happens when this pessimist is inevitably sharing a space with you 40 hours out of the week.

If you live on Earth, you’ve dealt with pessimists. The impatient man in front of you in line at the grocery store, a frustrated classmate, or perhaps your cousin’s uncle, twice removed, has exposed you to the detrimental suffering of the negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of a pessimist. These interactions, however fleeting, teach us how to cope with moments spent with a “Debbie Downer.” However, it’s a little more difficult when Debbie is your employee.

Here are some tips that will help you turn Debbie’s frown upside down:

1. CREATE AWARENESS: Talk to the employee that is struggling to maintain a positive persona in the workplace. Explain how their comments may be perceived as negative by others. However, when approaching your employee remember one crucial rule “Be as positive as you are negative.” In other words, be sure to explain their value to the team while also acknowledging the impact of his behavior.

2. REPOSITION NEGATIVE COMMENTS: Don’t let the negativity linger! Ask the employee for further explanation or clarification when a negative comment is said. Further explanation can help you as a boss to better understand your team member’s thought processes. Something that sounds negative to you may sound justified and logical to a pessimistic person.

3. INVOLVE THE WHOLE TEAM: Set team rules and expectations beforehand and ask everyone to observe them. This may sound a little like grade school, but setting expectations assures consistency and diminishes misunderstandings.

When all else fails. If the problem employee continues to be a constant cloud of negativity, you may ultimately need to remove them from the team. If the employee feels pessimism is everywhere, further negativity will creep in and is a very detrimental characteristic to have to lurk around the office, and it can undermine the hard work your team has already put forth.


WorkCompass’s award-winning performance management software is built for progressive organisations. Some of the most successful organizations in the US use it to transform their appraisals from dreaded annual conversations focused on judging the past to ongoing coaching focused on improving performance for the future.

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