Saturday Night Live has a spoof about Negative Nellie’s and they call her Debbie Downer.
We all know people like this who are the Voice of Doom and the Doctor No’s.
Whatever the topic is–they’ve been there, done it, and have seen it fail–“We tried that before,” “That’s not the way we do things here,” “You just don’t understand,” “It will never work.”
They see danger and bad everywhere and in everything, even in the face of positive and promise.
These are the people who are obstinate, the naysayers, and are against change at all cost–they fear it or just don’t want to deal with it.
BusinessWeek has an interesting perspective on this–how even these people can be employed to have a beneficial impact on projects–by having them tell you everything that can go wrong, so you can take steps to plan and mitigate against these.
Some people only want to have positive people around them–“yes men,” who only tell them how smart and right they are all the time.
However, the best leaders don’t want kiss ups and brown nosers, but rather value”truth tellers,” who will provide them solid advice and guidance on issues, tell them when they think something is wrong or risky, and even take an opposing point of view or play devil’s advocate.
I remember when I was asked about whether a certain project was going to meet a very near deadline, and I said point blank, “Do you want me just to say yes or do you want me to tell you the truth?”
I got a big smile to that and the appreciation that I was real and truthful and there to make a difference and not just be another lump on the log.
The point is not to be a Debbie Downer or a brown noser, but to be an Honest Joe or Jane. 😉