Almost all organizations have at least one of these people: when they walk into a meeting, everyone else pulls back and waits for the fireworks to start.
The tension is palpable: how loud will they get? what complaint will it be? who will they go after this time?
In the office, we tiptoe around these kind of folks. We plan about how to position ideas and proposals so as to minimize their impact. We seek to isolate them. And tune em out.
It seems right to stay away from someone we think is negative, confrontational, full of doom and gloom - or even worse. Our time on the planet is short, why should we waste it on people who are not upbeat and positive?
For decision makers, this can be dangerous.
There is no perfection in this world. No innovation, strategy, or tactic is flawless.
Alfred P. Sloan, when he was running General Motors, knew that if he ever received unanimous support from his team for a particular project, something was wrong. He would intentionally park the file folder on his credenza until it had gathered a sufficient amount of dust. He kept the project there long enough until someone could discover a mistake.
Naysayers, negative nabobs, or whatever else they are labeled can be valuable assets for a manager. They can provide the "out of the box" or "new set of eyes" we purport to need.
This doesn't mean we have to go out for dinner with these folks. Or, invite them to our home.
But the next time they start, we might be better off to look past the histrionics and listen to what they are really saying.