“Get on board Sister or get off!”… That’s really what I want to say in the team meeting. We all have one. In every practice, in most groups, there is at least one member who is always against change or new ideas. Whether I’m consulting on-site or directing a team meeting, for me, these opportunities to collaborate, implement new marketing strategies, improve efficiencies, and refresh the morale with a reminder or our unique practice culture. I probably look forward to them more than most. However, you can rest assured there will undoubtedly be a Negative Nancy in the bunch.

I am talking about the person that always has a reason why “that can’t work”, “it’s unrealistic”, and “you can do it but I’m not.” Why such opposition? Why create a roadblock? There should be a rule that you can only say No twice in a meeting. Then the Negative Nancy would really have to choose wisely what they will and won’t do.

These guys are smart, bright, hard-working, and generally happy people. So why does any discussion of change turn into such debate and how can Docs avoid this at their monthly team meetings?

One of my favorite places to find great reads is Harvard Business Review (HBR). In March, there was an article by Jennifer Porter (Managing Partner of The Boda Group) that goes right in line with this subject. She titled it “How to Handle to Naysayer on Your Team.” I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it, but here are the key points:

Why Repeated Opposition Causes Negative Reactions:

  • Opposition seems jarring and appears to slow the team down
  • Disagreement can feel personal  – and it usually doesn’t feel good
  • It feels like the person doing the opposing is intentionally derailing the conversation
  • Many people are uncomfortable with conflict
  • Opposition is interpreted as lack of unity

She goes on to point out that while opposition from the “Naysayer” is interpreted as undesired, it is necessary in order to make higher level decisions. So what can the Doc or Office Manager do to resolve this monthly conflict?

  • Explicitly ask for opposition
  • Ask each person to share an opposing view
  • Don’t instinctively resist the opposition
  • Don’t demonize opposers
  • Give feedback to the person opposing
  • Be transparent about your reactions and self-management
  • Don’t equate opposition with lack of unity and cohesiveness
  • Celebrate and thank people who offer opposition

By implementing these suggestions, opposition is requested, encouraged and not directed by one individual. This seems like a great way for everyone to play “devil’s advocate” and remove the Negative Nancy label.

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